With an undergraduate population of a little over 3,200, USC Aiken has students with a vast array of political views which always has the opportunity to present some issues.
Samuel Boyd, USCA’s student body president, said he thinks the university’s community has put a lot of work into making it an environment where animosity is not the main form of communication.
“We’re not pressuring anyone to go one way or the other and we’re very open to the idea that you have your own ideas and not trying to force you one way,” Boyd said. “That’s, in my opinion, something that’s interwoven with the idea of higher education.”
Boyd said that he and the rest of the Student Government Association are working to make the student body more aware and that they all have the opportunity to vote. He also emphasized that there isn’t one main political view on campus.
“We have the individuals that are very passionate and unwilling to hear other people,” Boyd said. “But, as a general rule, I would say USC Aiken is kind of an outlier in higher education in the sense that there’s not one dominating view and people aren’t pushing that view on other people.”
Evan Jenkins, a senior at USC Aiken and the president of the political science club, agreed. He feels everyone can speak their mind and have discussions without backlash.
“I think as a freshman, it wasn’t like that for the whole campus,” Jenkins said. “But over four years, it has definitely gotten better about that.”
Amethyst Marroquin, a senior at USC Aiken and student coordinator at the Student Life Office of Diversity Initiatives, agreed with Jenkins.
“I think that over the past four years, students have learned how to communicate better about some things,” Marroquin said. “It went from ‘What should my response be?’ to a state of listening and trying to at least hear each other out.”
Jenkins brought up a recent campus event based around talking about political issues to people on the other side. The fact that the event was even held, Jenkins said, speaks to how open the campus is. He said the event maxed out on capacity.
“I think that event offered students some comfort that it’s possible for two people who disagree to not only coexist with one another but actively try to maintain social relationships,” Marroquin said. “That’s contrary to what we’re seeing in our personal relationships and on the news and things like that. I think that event offers students who need that advice or who need that reassurance that it’s okay to do this.”
Boyd said there was a debate watch party for the final presidential debate on Oct. 22 that was a bipartisan event.
“Respect was guaranteed because we said everybody be respectful,” Boyd said. “Everybody was able to listen. Even though people very clearly had different opinions on what was going on, there were no arguments, there was nothing breaking out. It was just like you have an opinion, I have an opinion.”
Jenkins also spoke about the watch party and said about 150 people showed up.
Asked about voting, Jenkins said he thinks it’s important because of the collective.
“Your specific vote, like your one vote, doesn’t change the whole outcome of an election but it’s more of like if a lot of people are thinking that way and they don’t vote, then who knows how many people are thinking that way?” Jenkins said. “That changes an entire election. It’s more of the collective. If this whole entire campus, no one voted, and they were all in Aiken or Edgefield County, that changes a lot of different things, whether thats for the right or the left side.”
Boyd said the SGA just wants everyone to get out and vote. He said they have been doing voter registration events to try and spread the word.
“Regardless of how the election goes, I think a lot of people are going to go out and vote from USC Aiken,” Boyd said.
Marroquin said she thinks politics is talked about frequently among student leaders and that higher education and college is the place to have those conversations.
“I think our university does a great job with encouraging students to think critically about issues,” Marroquin said. “Being an empathetic listener doesn’t excuse anyone’s behavior, but it gets down to the why. I think that among student leaders, we’re able to talk about politics because we’re empathetically listening. We’re not listening to argue or respond, but to listen and understand which I think this country could use more of.”