University Provides Paths to Political Preparedness
by James Leonard | Staff Writer
SCRANTON — Even students that are not in pre-law and political science programs can politically socialize during their time at the University.
Political science professor, JoyAnna Hopper, Ph.D., stressed the importance of student involvement in the democratic process and the importance of being politically literate.
“By being active in student organizations like student government, or by participating in dialogues, students develop the skills necessary to be fully active in the democratic process,” Hopper said. “When we strengthen our ‘democracy muscle’ in our everyday lives, we feel more comfortable and capable of participating in the American political process from the local to the national level.”
One way for students interested in getting more involved in politics while on campus is through the University’s Mock Trial team.
Club president Veronica Sansone said that participating in the team can provide students with skills they can carry throughout their entire life.
“The skills learned in Mock Trial give one the ability to think on one’s feet, be confident in public speaking and many more useful skills,” Sansone said. “I am confident in saying that the Mock Trial team has prepared me with many useful skills that I will carry with me in my career as I move on to law school.”
Sansone said that the skills gained from participating on the team can carry over to a wide range of majors and interests journalism and law to exercise science and business.
“The sooner you understand the role governments play in your life and how to gain access to government officials and what it takes to influence them, the sooner you can improve your quality of life and the quality of life for those in your community.”Jean Harris, Ph.D., University of Scranton political science professor
Scranton Mock Trial goes up against other schools each season, and has an opportunity to go to a championship in Washington, D.C.
This season, the team took on a civil case regarding the wrongful death of a groom the night before his wedding, after he was allegedly poisoned by his mother-in-law.
Sansone said that during a trial, the team is divided into several groups that tackle different aspects of the case.
“As a team we divide into the Plaintiff/Prosecution and Defense, where students will either be attorneys or witnesses,” Sansone said. “Each side then creates a whole case that they will compete with in competitions, using the materials in the case packet. After weeks of preparation, we go to various competitions where we will get to go against other schools and use our prepared case against other schools.”
Students interested in joining Mock Trial can reach out to Sansone at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The University also offers opportunities to be politically involved — with less of a time commitment. Each semester there are a plethora of opportunities to attend political dialogues on campus. These dialogues aim to help students of different views discuss current issues in a safe environment.
University Assistant Vice President of Community Engagement & Government Affairs, Julie Schumacher Cohen, organizes the events.
According to Cohen, the program encourages newcomers. The organization uses a format that is suited to make people feel comfortable sharing their opinions with a group, and also makes them feel safe from being bullied or scrutinized for their beliefs.
“I think that puts people at ease,” Cohen said. “On the other hand — certainly for some students — it might be their first time even talking about politics. Like in the event we had last week about impeachment, some students said how they didn’t know that much about the issue or they are not sure that they want to talk.”
The last 10 to 15 minutes of each dialogue is dedicated to open discussion about anything participants would like to discuss in terms of politics.
“The format allows it to be possible for people to have those hard conversations,” Cohen said.
Cohen also discussed how event organizers strive for diversity among political beliefs and demographics including gender, age, culture, religion and race.
Upon signing up for dialogues, students need to fill out a short questionnaire that asks students about their political standing and demographics, so that the groups can be split in a way that creates a more diverse discussion environment.
Students can sign up for political dialogues via Royal Sync.
College Democrats and Republicans
For those interested in getting more involved in their political party, the University has both a College Democrats and Republicans club.
The aim of the clubs is to create an environment for like-minded individuals to discuss current political events and even exercise their constitutional rights.
The clubs host current events discussions for their members, and gather to watch events such as policy hearings, elections and other live political events.
Students who wish to influence change on campus directly can run for election in Student Government. This year’s election is happening in a couple of weeks.
The election will be held via Royal Sync on April 13 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Those running for office began campaigning today.
According to the organizations website, “The Student Senate deals with pertinent issues that affect the day-to-day lives of students at The University of Scranton.”
There are a total of 24 members, who cover a variety of areas from finance to international representation. Senate meetings are open to all students via Zoom.
Zoom links and more info can be found at the Student Government website.
Political science professor Jean Harris, Ph.D., is a firm believer in students becoming more politically literate. She said getting involved in any of these campus activities and groups will ultimately help students in the long run.
“Once you graduate, as your life journeys continue, you will pay income taxes, property taxes, sales taxes to multiple governments,” Harris said. “Government policies will affect your quality of life. The sooner you understand the role governments play in your life and how to gain access to government officials and what it takes to influence them, the sooner you can improve your quality of life and the quality of life for those in your community.”