Opinion Asks: What issues should candidates focus on in campus talks?

by The Dartmouth Opinion Staff | 2/1/16 7:00pm

During their visits to college campuses, candidates should focus on policies that most address student interests. These include the need for better college funding, restructuring of student loans, government initiatives to expand employment opportunities after graduation and programs that work towards ensuring that students of all socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds can start their careers on an equal playing field. Candidates should be reasonable and realistic in their promises and students should be receptive to ideas from both sides of the political spectrum. Each candidate visit to campus brings us an opportunity for meaningful discussion and constructive debate. To reap the benefits of those opportunities, we should be informed, open-minded and engaged.

- Ioana Solomon ’19

I think instead of framing populist positions with populist rhetoric, we should be seeing more populist debunking during interviews, debates, speeches, etc. It wouldn’t have to be a Dartmouth-caliber lecture on economics or the federal budget. What if we saw a candidate really counter those who point at welfare, foreign aid, education and Planned Parenthood as huge budget eaters, and actually talk about the major aspects of fiscal policy. For example, candidates need to get over their fear of talking about defense cuts. In 2012, the defense budget was more than $400 billion. Today, it’s more than $600 billion. Last I checked, Operation Iraqi Freedom was over. And instead of talking about privatizing social security, or federalizing healthcare, candidates should be doing a lot more to establish realistic policies — and making them more known to the public. We’ve got an angry electorate, and each day, voters move further away from career politicians because they aren’t giving them any real policy, and instead are moving closer to Donald Trump.

- Billy Peters ’15

Some topics that are of specific interest to young people are climate change, college tuition and the job market and unemployment. That said, I think candidates tend to cater their talks to college students too much and only focus on these issues, so it wouldn’t hurt for them to also discuss foreign policy, social security and other issues that politically-informed campuses will care about as much as they care about “young people’s issues.”

­- Reem Chamseddine ’17

As a college student, I value education and feel that politicians should make education a key policy issue, even more so when visiting college campuses. Still, considering that most federal changes to education, however well intentioned they may be, will rarely affect private institutions such as Dartmouth, it is critical that politicians take their audience into consideration and discuss the policies that most directly impact the audience in front of them. This does not mean that politicians should flip flop on policies — in fact, there are few features I value more in a politician than consistency. Rather, this means that the issue of education, such as Bernie Sanders’ promise of making public institutions of higher education tuition-free, would naturally best be suited to an audience at a public institution. When politicians visit Dartmouth then, I would like to hear them discuss issues that either affect me now or very well could in the future, and as a rising senior, few issues are more important to my immediate future as jobs. My generation has been raised in an economic climate of recession and the reality of dwindling work opportunities and increasing competition. Indeed, at every family event, distant relatives make sure to remind me upon hearing that I will be graduating soon of the poor job prospects for recent graduates. So, I would like to hear politicians discuss how they intend to fix this major issue. Of course, I understand that this issue has deep roots and will not be so easily resolved, but it is nonetheless a serious issue worthy of discussion and even more so at college campuses where the audiences are so directly and immediately concerned.

- Nicole Simineri ’17

I think that politicians underestimate the relevancy of foreign policy to college students — especially to Dartmouth students. Yes, it’s nice to hear about how you will bolster or fix the economy. Yes, it’s funny when you share some anecdote to make yourself seem more relatable to college students. Yes, you have a plan for the nation. But what is your plan internationally? How will you bolster this or fix that with regards to foreign nations? I want to hear about a global plan, not just a domestic one.

- Benjamin Szuhaj ’19

Presidential candidates should be focusing on an equal mix of social and economic issues. While this may sound like a cop-out, I strongly believe that both subjects are of equal importance in the political realm. Social and economic issues do not exist in a vacuum; the two interact and affect each other in significant and lasting ways. Focusing on social issues at the expense of economic ones ignores how the market, tax policy, labor unions and any number of financial issues affects the social realities of Americans. Likewise, it is ineffective and shortsighted to focus on social issues such as reproductive rights, gender equality and education reform without acknowledging and articulating how these issues are changed by the manifestation of economic realities. Keeping this caveat in mind, I think that presidential candidates should focus primarily on tax reform and education reform, which I see as interrelated issues. A family’s socioeconomic status and geographic location should not determine the strength and quality of education any student in the United States. receives. We all deserve equal opportunities, and a robust education system funded by a fair tax code is a strong step toward that ideal.

- Emily Albrecht ’16