Rutecki: A lesson on the value of political engagement

One reason why the college experience has a profound effect on students’ lives is because of their response to newfound independence. Beyond the more obvious freedoms of this independence, such as choosing a bedtime, students’ political views are usually more likely to change in college than later in life. As young adults, I think most students desire to figure out the type of person they want to be. This observation is why students should desire to expose themselves to different ideas. They can solidify their personal identity.

It would be unfair for me to encourage other students to consider new political perspectives if I didn’t “put my money where my mouth is” by doing so myself. Admittedly, I am often a close-minded individual when it comes to issues that I care about. In my mind, it does not matter that the Buffalo Bills currently have the longest active playoff drought in American professional sports with 17 sad, consecutive seasons. At the beginning of each season, I still think they will win the Super Bowl.

But over the course of the semester, I learned that being more open-minded does not mean compromising your identity; it just forces you to contemplate why you believe what you believe. This concept can be observed in my academic courses. For instance, when I first began Sociology 101, I initially dismissed the course as “liberal talking points.” Sure there are some concepts in the field of sociology that I do not agree with, but I realized that not every topic fits that description.

In particular, our class discussion on improving the education system for students from disadvantaged backgrounds in areas with poor quality schools compelled me to think of these problems differently. Becoming more informed about inequalities in our education system has led me to reconsider my preconceptions on various factors, such as school funding, and learn from hearing diverse opinions.

Furthermore ,I learned the importance of being engaged with the politics on campus with Undergraduate Student Government (USG). The representatives we elect make meaningful decisions that impact the function of our university. I found one of the best ways to be active in campus developments is to attend USG’s General Body meetings. Even going to just one meeting, as I did, provides insight in how they can work to improve our college experience.

Another aspect I learned regarding obtaining a thorough political identity is the value of community engagement. One of the ways I discovered its significance this semester was by attended my first student protest, the security alert demonstration.  Attending the protest showed me the importance of defending what you believe in. For example, although I agree very little with Senator Bernie Sanders policy-wise, I admire his honesty. For this reason, I would support Sanders over Hillary Clinton if I had to vote in the Democratic primary, despite Sanders being further left on the political spectrum.

In this nature,  I was honored to partake in the protest with members of the Feminist Collective, who usually are of different politics. The symbolic nature of uniting for a cause across political divides represents the essence of ideological diversity: not always agreeing, but always fighting for what we each think is right.

Even though I seek to be more open-minded when encountering different political arguments, my ignorance in predicting the odds of my favorite sports teams remains, and that is okay. Let me be the first to tell you, the Buffalo Bills will be the 2018 Super Bowl champions.