Established 1826 — Oldest College Newspaper West of the Alleghenies

College should be a haven where students can develop their views

The following piece, written by the editorial editors, reflects the majority opinion of the editorial board.

Miami has a reputation for being a conservative school. However, examination of our voting habits highlights a trend: more Miamians vote Democrat than Republican. Compared to other voting districts in Butler County Miami University represents a small pocket of progressivism.

In the 2012 presidential election, 62 percent of Butler County votes went to Mitt Romney while only 37 percent went to Barack Obama. However, in Miami voting precincts, 50 percent of votes went to President Obama, a plurality. This raises an interesting question: are college students really more liberal?

College students who identify as politically liberal sometimes get flack for it. They are told they are uninformed, overly idealistic or just plain dumb. They are promised that once they get older, get a job and understand how the world works, they will be forced to admit defeat and switch sides.

But for many of us, there has been a positive correlation between education and liberalism. Many - though not all of us - report leaning a little more to the left than we did four years ago.

Others of us still support the same party, but feel more confident in our views. We are better able to articulate why we agree or disagree with certain viewpoints and why we support or condemn certain candidates.

And others are still working on it - stuck somewhere in limbo between total obliviousness and political expertise. They couldn't tell you the name of Hilary Clinton's childhood best friend, but they know she believes in the reality of climate change and is an advocate for LGBTQ rights.

So, why the transformation?

In high school, it is easy to be politically ignorant, especially when we hail from homogenous neighborhoods filled with people just like ourselves. The things people talk about, think about and care about are strictly standardized. There is little room for revolution.

Fast forward to college. We have left our hometowns and shed our former selves. We interact with new people who have new ideas. We discuss important topics, arguing and persuading each other to adopt new beliefs. Our parents no longer speak for us and the religious views instilled in us during childhood may no longer dictate political opinions.

A lot of this has to do with learning how to take care of ourselves and discovering how policies can impact our lives. Candidates who talk about alleviating student loans automatically forge a connection with college-aged constituents. Even issues like foreign policy that once seemed far-off geographically and therefore irrelevant, start to matter.

The curriculum here is much more diverse than that of a high school. Through exposure to a variety of worldviews, students reexamine their own belief systems. And while keeping up with current events has helped increase our awareness of issues, a lot of learning and decision-making takes place outside of the classroom.

For example, volunteer work with those less fortunate can highlight the inequality present in our nation - a reality many of us were never confronted with growing up. After being exposed to poverty, violence, housing segregation and marginalization, it is hard not to question what you thought you knew.

Each generation is different than those preceding it, and ours is no exception. As a whole, we are exalted as being more open-minded and progressive than our parents and grandparents. It is hard to betray, or even question, the views we were raised with. But until we do, how will we ever know what we believe?

According to The Hub, Miami's chapter of College Republicans boasts 487 members, while College Democrats has 142. Yes, this statistic highlights Miami's conservative majority, but it also shows how many students feel strongly enough to declare their loyalty somewhere. These numbers combined represent a total 629 students who are participating in a politically focused organization. They differ in the party to which they pledge their allegiance, but they are united in that they value political involvement.

We are not endorsing policies or pushing a certain agenda here. We aren't trying to tell you who to vote for - but we are telling you to vote. Being ignorant is bad enough, but being apathetic is unacceptable. This is our world and this is our future. We need to take responsibility and be the ones to shape it.