Memo to Candidates: Tell us your views on these issues

With 6,144 students, the undergraduate population of Washington University represents a sizable voting block with the ability to influence electoral outcomes in the surrounding legislative districts and statewide.

As students, we also have shared concerns that differ somewhat from those of the general population. While the range of political opinions on campus prevents us from speaking for the entire student body, we do believe there are key issues that are at the forefront of our campus dialogue. We therefore wish to highlight these issues in the hope that the candidates running to represent us will speak out on these topics.

First is an issue that is dominant on many college campuses and has been subject to a great deal of interest, discussion and activism here: alternative energy. Student groups such as Green Action have a large following on campus and work both to improve sustainability at the University and to enact policies nationwide that would counter global warming and protect our environmental future. Given the University’s research on coal and other forms of energy, as well as its fairly recent commitment to sustainable design, alternative energy has become a topic of constant debate on campus.

Next is gay rights. Although views here are of course not unanimous, this is the topic that perhaps generates the most agreement on campus. Because campus organizations for LGBT students are active, because many students here have lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender friends and because the norms of our generation favor equality, many students here have passionate views on issues like Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, employment discrimination and marriage equality.

Naturally, higher education, and particularly student loans and financial aid, may be the issues that hits closest to home for the most students at Wash. U. Not only do students here worry about their own tuition bills, but socioeconomic diversity has also become a key issue on campus, as evidenced by the emergence of groups like United for Undergraduate Socio-Economic Diversity (U/FUSED). Students here are concerned about ensuring access to higher education for all.

K-12 education is also a major passion of many students. Teach For America, tutoring programs and education majors are all popular here.

Fourth, just like the larger voting population, we are worried about the state of the economy. For seniors who are about to enter an unfriendly job market, this subject is one of utmost personal relevance. The other members of the student body are hoping that the economy improves before their own graduations. Students also care about their tax liability, both for their families now and for themselves in the future, as well as for the long-term economic viability of their chosen professional field.

Aside from these four major issues, there are others that occupy important niches on campus. All students here have Wash. U. health insurance, but graduating seniors will soon be affected by new health care regulations. While, for many students, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are a fairly distant reality, there is a sizable ROTC program on campus. There is also a large group of students who are passionate about U.S. foreign policy with regard to Israel.

As the voter registration period ends and Election Day grows closer, we encourage candidates to share their views on these topics with us. We will be listening.