School may be in session, with classes commencing and the Kingston Campus buzzing with new and exciting energy, but there is something very significant looming over campus this upcoming Fall: Local and State Elections.
Whatever your political preferences may be, you do not need to major in political science, or join a political party campaign to get informed and vote in this upcoming election. With most college students struggling financially just to obtain a degree and enter the job force, voting may seem to be a futile effort. A common conception amongst citizens is that their votes “don’t actually count” or perhaps are not worth anything because politics and government is a detached entity from the true public. This faulty thinking could not be more untrue, especially at the state and local level.
Given the fact that very few people actually vote in state primaries and elections in comparison to national elections, a single vote in this fall’s election has more influence than one would expect. In fact, it is all too common in primaries that a candidate wins just by a handful of votes because of the low voter turnout that plagues Rhode Island state elections. This fall, the future of the candidates vying for governor, a seat in the House and Senate and even town council around the state, need your vote as much as the public needs their efforts once elected.
If you’re not sure how Rhode Island government affects the average URI student, for a moment imagine yourself in the middle of the Quad and look around—Everything you see has a connection to politics in Rhode Island. Our buildings are raised from the ground up by municipal, state, and federal loans and grants; the same sources fund our research and programs. Without political decisions and funding at the State House and at the local government level, the university has no veracity or sustainability.
The brand new 68 million dollar Chemistry and Forensic Sciences building that is going to complete the trifecta of state of the art advanced science labs and classrooms alongside the Pharmacy and CBLS buildings is being funded primarily through a Rhode Island voter approved bond from 2010. Voting is what directly facilitated the existence of the new building along with hundreds of other endeavors at our school. This is not a phenomenon. Rhode Island politics affects the University in more ways than we realize, and it is necessary to get informed about who is running for office, their platform on postsecondary education, tuition, student loans and jobs in the state, and afterward, cast an educated vote.
So far, the Rhode Island State Legislature should be commended on achieving a tuition freeze by increasing funding to our school for the 2013-2014 fiscal year. However, from 2007-2010 state policies on education resulted in major funding cuts to all state schools. We need political representation at every level that expresses the value of investment in URI, our faculty and one that has a plan for students even after graduation. Investment in URI is a direct statement of belief in the integrity of our programs, the unparalleled talent of our students and the strength of our degrees.
The most publicized election in the state is the gubernatorial primaries, which will be held September 9th, and then general election voting will take place November 4th. Two Republicans are competing for the Republican nomination: Ken Block and Alan Fung. Candidates competing for the Democratic nomination include Angel Tavares, Gina Raimondo, Clay Pell and Todd Girioux. The best information about these candidates and their platforms on issues vital for university students can be found on their campaign websites.
As the tides turn in Rhode Island, so should education policy. Our newly elected governor and state representatives as well as our valued incumbent legislators need to continue to prioritize funding for post secondary education, strategize a plan for jobs and address the issue of student loan interest rates and debt that burden us all as we enter the job force.
Get informed and cast your vote. If you are not from Rhode Island, still stay informed. State policies directly affect the quality of your education and life here at URI.