Following the FOCUS on Vassar club fair back in April, we wanted to give incoming and prospective students interested in the VPR an opportunity to experience our editorial process. So, we asked prospective students to write passages on three things: what their bylines would be if they wrote for us, the state of politics in their towns and their expectations for politics at Vassar. We call it Bylines. Here it is.
Tiana Headley ‘22 is a prospective Political Science and Medieval and Renaissance Studies major. She has written for The Beacon, OUTLOUD Multimedia and Teenlink. She is interested in writing about race, education and politics. She is Director of Activism for the Junior State of America, a student-run civics and debate club, teaches art history to middle schoolers and aspires to be an investigative journalist.
Politics in her town
Miami politics are dominated by debates about immigration, U.S.-Cuba relations and education reform. Miami is the gateway to the United States for much of the Caribbean and Latin America. The Trump administration’s immigration policies have left many immigrants concerned for their lives in the United States. Cubans make up 54 percent of Miami’s Hispanic population. Support of diplomatic relations with the island is split between those who fled between 1956 and 1980 and those who left between 1981 and 2014. The state of education is also hotly debated, with disparities in educational opportunities in Miami’s urban core and the rise of private and charter schools being glaring issues for residents and local politicians. When it comes time to vote, Miamians lean Democratic by a roughly 200,000 vote margin. The politics in Miami are also riddled with corruption and performative reassurances, making it hard for me to be optimistic about change. However, I try to be hopeful about the right people being elected to government and the grassroots efforts of Miamians.
Expectations for Vassar
The impression Vassar left upon me was that of a dominantly liberal institution. Knowing what politics tends to be like on other college campuses dominated by leftist thought, I feared that I might be entering an echo chamber. However, interacting with other Vassar class of 2022 students has left me with no doubt that I will be interacting with a group of thoughtful and respectful peers receptive to productive and well-substantiated ideas, regardless the side of the political spectrum from which they may originate. I have committed myself to fostering productive conversations about social issues by hosting a monthly forum at my school, and hope to continue this effort as a participant in the Vassar Forum for Political Thought and the Vassar Political Review.
Benjamin Drake ‘22 is a prospective biology major with an interest in American history and world geography. In his free time he enjoys baking and hanging out with his cat.
Politics in his town
I’m a born and bred native of Cleveland, Ohio. As demonstrated in the 2016 election, Cleveland, like other large cities of Ohio, is a blue island in a churning cesspool of red. Clinton won Cuyahoga County–where Cleveland is located–by 65.8% in the 2016 presidential election. For reference, that was a larger margin of victory for Clinton than that of solidly blue states like California, New York or Hawaii. She also won the counties of the next two largest cities in Ohio, Cincinnati and Columbus, but that did not stop Trump from taking the state by appealing to the majority conservative, majority white voters in the vast rural counties of central and southern Ohio. But Cleveland’s population is not representative of Ohio’s as a whole. The city proper is majority black, our mayor, Frank Jackson, is black, and we were the first major city to elect an African American, Carl Stokes, as mayor. Our city is so solidly blue we haven’t elected a Republican for mayor since 1980, which was a very favorable year for Republicans. This is in contrast to Ohio which voted Republican in 2016, 2004 and 2000. As Cleveland is part of the so-called “Rust Belt,” a group of old industrial midwestern and northeastern cities, legislation designed to “clean off” some of that rust is important to us up here on Lake Erie. Driving around our city you can see plenty of closed down factories and plants, so any bill designed to “bring back jobs” is appealing to the voters here. To sum up, Cleveland is a democratic city in a largely Republican state, whose rusty industrial joints are beginning to move again.
Expectations for Vassar
I expect to fit in with the overall political lean of the campus at Vassar, with my liberal viewpoint of things. I hope to involve myself with some of the environmental clubs on campus considering the fact that Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency, with its loosening of regulations of car carbon emissions, is no longer really doing its intended job of protecting the environment. I believe all of us have to make more of an effort to be environmentally conscious. What led me to want to write for to the Vassar Political Review is its non-partisan viewpoint, which I believe is vital for a publication. If you are only sharing news through one lens, you end up like extremely biased outlets such as Fox or Breitbart; endless echo chambers of generalizations, exaggerations and falsehoods.
Elliot Porcher ‘22 is a senior at Montclair High School in Montclair, NJ who will be attending Vassar starting in Fall, 2018. He is a prospective biology major but is still undecided. He currently works at Brookdale Pet Center and is a light booth operator at his school’s theatre.
Politics in his town
Montclair is a very blue town. The highlight of Montclair’s political life was when someone from Montclair had a shouting match on radio with Chris Christie, the former Republican Governor of New Jersey, and told him off about closing the beaches. In return, Chris Christie called everyone in Montclair, “a bunch of commies.” The majority of voters are registered Democrats, and the next largest group of voters is independent. Fewer than 10% of registered voters in Montclair are Republicans. (see below) In every election since 2006, when I moved here, the town has voted Democratic. The most important political issues in Montclair right now are the possibility of becoming a sanctuary town-a municipality that offers scant cooperation with the federal government in tracking down, detaining and deporting undocumented people–and the question of having stricter gun control on a county scale. As someone who is left-leaning, the politics in Montclair could not be better for me.
Expectations for Vassar
I expect the politics on Vassar’s campus to be more or less the same as they are in my hometown. When considering where to attend college, an important consideration was that the college not necessarily be an echo chamber for my own political views, but rather a healthy place to facilitate discussion on political issues. I hope to be involved with The Vassar Political Review when I’m on campus to voice my opinions on the political happenings at Vassar. I would say that Vassar will almost certainly live up to these expectations in the fall.