The campaigns, debates, primaries and caucuses across America are clear signs that election season is here – and not just any election, but a presidential election.
Cedarville students are experiencing some of this hype as two student organizations, Turning Point USA and College Republicans, work tirelessly to bring politics into the spotlight on campus.
The Cedarville chapter of Turning Point USA was named “Chapter of the Month” by Turning Point USA for February 2016. The organization said on its website of the Cedarville chapter, “Demonstrating campus activism at its finest, the chapter actively participates in Turning Point USA’s National Initiatives with gusto and their own personal flair.” The Cedarville chapter was awarded a $100 grant for its activism.
Turning Point USA
Founded in June 2012, Turning Point USA is a national non-profit organization whose mission is “to identify, educate, train, and organize students to promote the principles of fiscal responsibility, free markets, and limited government.” Since the organization’s founding, already over 1,000 college campuses in America have student chapters.
The Cedarville chapter of Turning Point USA began in 2014 under the leadership of Morgan Bergoon, Cedarville alumna and former field director for the campus org.
Caleb Hull, a junior IT management major at Cedarville, became field director of the Cedarville chapter in January 2016 after Bergoon graduated. Hull said he realized during his freshman year that many of his friends were choosing neither to vote nor to register to vote.
He said he also realized that liberal media dominates today’s culture, especially for the younger generation. These factors influenced him to get involved with politics at Cedarville, he said.
“As a college student, especially as a Christian, it’s important to become involved for several different reasons,” Hull said.
Cedarville’s Turning Point USA team is currently working to start a chapter at Wright State University. Cedarville students travel to Wright State and set up a table on campus every Tuesday for up to four hours, talking to students about becoming involved with Turning Point USA. Hull said the Cedarville team has already made 150 contacts at Wright State, and the chapter is working to become registered as an organization at the University of Dayton as well.
Hull said Turning Point USA works to impact the millennial generation in a meaningful way. Most college-aged students receive biased political information, primarily dominated by liberal thought, Hull said.
“They only hear one side from their professors, and it’s very biased,” Hull said.
“The goal of Turning Point is to reach millennials in a way that really speaks to them.”
However, Turning Point USA is not alone in its efforts at Cedarville.
According to its website, College Republicans is America’s oldest, largest and most active youth political organization. It was founded in 1892 and currently has over 250,000 student chapters across America. This organization is affiliated with the Republican Party.
Tyler Hanley, a junior political science major at Cedarville, became the president of the Cedarville chapter of College Republicans in January 2016. Hanley has been interested in politics since a young age and spent last summer in Washington, D.C., interning with the Heritage Foundation.
“(The goal of College Republicans is) to get more people involved in the political process, more engaged, more educated about the issues (and) the candidates,” Hanley said.
Because this spring semester falls in the middle of the presidential election season, both organizations have been hosting more events and forums for Cedarville students.
Turning Point USA and College Republicans co-hosted this semester’s first debate-watching party, which was well attended by Cedarville students. More than 300 students have joined the Cedarville chapter to watch a presidential debate.
In early February, the orgs sponsored a speaker forum featuring Joe Walsh, a conservative talk radio host and former Republican congressman from Illinois. They also hosted a local candidate forum. Furthermore, the orgs plan to celebrate “Second Amendment Day” later in the semester with a free open gun range for Cedarville students.
Hanley said the two orgs want to keep students engaged in politics every year, not just during major elections.
Hanley said he hopes students will increase their involvement in politics by attending more of the speaker forum events.
“The speaker forums are more beneficial than the debate-watching parties. … (During) the debate watching parties, while you get to hear what different candidates are saying, you can only articulate so much in a short period of time like that,” Hanley said. “When they’re arguing back and forth, they don’t often hit substantive points, whereas (in) the speaker forums, you have the opportunity to learn more. There’s more depth about whatever the subject material is.”
Hanley said College Republicans hopes to bring exciting and knowledgeable political speakers to Cedarville’s campus to attract students and inform them about political issues.
Additionally, both College Republicans and Turning Point USA have focused their efforts on encouraging Cedarville students to register to vote and get out to vote. Hull said that since Ohio is a swing state, he encourages out-of-state students to register to vote in Ohio.
Opportunities for involvement
Mark Smith is a professor of political science and the director of the Center of Political Studies at Cedarville. Smith said he often plans political events held at Cedarville and interacts with the media, such as participating in radio interviews.
Smith has helped both Turning Point USA and College Republicans with events, and he served as the emcee for the local candidate forum this semester.
Smith said the two orgs best serve students by providing them with immediate opportunities for political involvement.
“Students need to learn to get involved in politics at a very local level,” Smith said. “Not joining an interest group a thousand miles away, but getting involved in an organization that you can actually be a member of and participate with.”
For students who are interested in getting involved with politics, Smith said he encourages simply volunteering for a campaign.
“No organization will tell a volunteer no,” Smith said.
While volunteer work is not glamorous and can at first be menial, Smith said, most campaigns will give reliable volunteers more work and responsibility.
Smith also said College Republicans and Turning Point USA teach students about leadership and service.
“It’s good for students to learn how to organize things, how to effectively lead an organization, how to do volunteer work that’s not glamorous,” Smith said.
A proper perspective
Because political issues are often emotionally straining, divisive and controversial, Smith said students, especially those at Cedarville, should strive to represent the gospel and their school well.
Yet Smith also cautioned against an over-inflated view of politics as a whole.
“Everyone, not just students, but everyone involved in the politics process, needs to keep politics in the proper perspective,” he said. “The balance is, you need to be involved and you need to care … but you need to understand that being involved in politics doesn’t require you to lose your testimony.”
Hanley said one of the best ways for Cedarville students to become more politically aware is to consume news from a variety of sources. He recommends reading traditional newspapers or online news sites, such as the Washington Post or Wall Street Journal, to receive a broad spectrum of news from differently biased sources.
While each source presents news with its own set of biases, he said, reading from multiple sources will allow students to gain their own opinion. Hanley said he also encourages having informed, political discussions with other students.
Similarly, Hull said he encourages students to deliberately seek out information about government to better understand current issues and policies.
Check out these resources to keep up with politics and the 2016 election:
Kjersti Fry is a sophomore pharmacy major and campus news editor for Cedars. She enjoys playing piano and ultimate frisbee and spending time with friends and family.