As a member of the class of 2023, I mourned many things when I learned that sophomores were not going to be invited back to Yale. None more so than the opportunity to spend an election year on a college campus.
Although life at Yale as we knew it has changed astronomically, I can’t help but feel a pang of jealousy for the students who were invited back. Sure, there won’t be any large speaking or campaign events on the scale that there normally would be, but the fact that ’23s are relegated to the sidelines is still extremely painful.
The 2020 election feels as though it’s the most important one that the 21st century has seen thus far. It comes amid a pandemic that our country can’t seem to get under control, the fight for racial justice becoming mainstream on the largest scale since the civil rights movement and general uncertainty about the future of our lives as individuals and of this country. 2020 is the first presidential election that I will be old enough to vote in, and I have been anticipating this November since the moment I realized that fact.
Missing the opportunity to be on campus during an election year has certainly taken a great deal of excitement out of the election. This isn’t to say that 2020 isn’t an exciting one on its own. In fact, I would argue that “exciting” doesn’t even begin to describe it — I quite literally get heart palpitations every time I even think about it.
But I had always imagined my first election as a defining moment in my life: attending different events on campus, watching the debates with my friends and then discussing them with classmates and finally going to the polls in person to perform my civic duty. Perhaps what I’m most torn up about is the one-sidedness that I’m about to experience during the election season.
It would be laughable to even suggest that I didn’t already know that I was going to vote for Biden. My political ideology is set in stone, and my friends and family in Delaware share my views. Of course there’s political diversity here, as there is in each state, but it’s not really a question as to which candidate will take the first state and our three glorious electoral votes in November. In this way, a bit of the excitement is gone from my perspective, as is the diversity of thought.
Not being on campus makes me feel like I will only grow more insular politically. Sure, I could seek out opinions that differ from mine in order to assuage this feeling, but if I’m honest, the chances of that happening are extraordinarily slim. Encountering different political views regularly at the height of election season is something that I think everyone needs to experience, especially young voters like myself. On campus, there were so many opportunities to confront the other side head on, such as structured YPU debates, guest speakers or even just the resident devil’s advocate in section. These interactions are crucial to developing our own ideologies as well as coming to terms with the very nature of our democracy.
In 2016, I was blindsided. I would like to say it’s because I was young and naive, but the truth is I was incredibly insular. I made no attempt to seek out new voices or opinions, so I had fooled myself into believing that my opinion was the one shared by the majority. I feel like I need to be on campus in order to expose myself to new perspectives and opinions — no matter how fiercely opposed to them I am.
I mourn the fall of 2020. So many of us have been robbed of the idyllic democratic public sphere that Yale’s campus would have provided. Yes, it can be argued that — with how polarized our country is at the moment — only one side of the political spectrum is truly free from ridicule when they express their views. Whether it’s being shouted by various pundits or typed by faceless individuals on Librex, some conservatives argue that conservative voices are being silenced on campuses across the country. It’s a silence that is not realistic and a silence that certainly will not carry over to the polls. However, they are voices that many of us will not have to confront in the coming month due to the current global situation.
It’s true that if I was on campus I would interact with conservative voices much less frequently than I would with liberal ones, but sadly, those voices now may be lost to me almost entirely.
The only way I can think to combat this is to actively seek out opposing views. In some respects, it may feel a bit like entering the lion’s den, but in most cases you won’t find a fight unless you’re looking for one. While I’m away from campus, I should make an effort to engage with those who I know fall on the opposite side of the political spectrum
Having grown up in Delaware my entire life, it always seems as though it is smaller than it actually is. I always feel as though I have a decent grasp on the political trends throughout my home. But the reality is, it’s never been more important to stay engaged than now. Maybe it’s my youth, but it really does feel as though our country is at a turning point. 2020 has been a turbulent year so far, so it would be naive to think that people’s views and ideologies haven’t been dynamic as well.
If I can’t be engaged with my campus to the full extent this fall, then I must make an even greater effort with my hometown. No matter which way the election goes in November, I don’t want to feel blindsided again.
Simi Olurin | firstname.lastname@example.org