Students bring attention to campus issues on ‘Live with Katy Tur’
Washington University students spoke about campus issues for the live taping of MSNBC’s “Live with Katy Tur” outside of the Danforth University Center Thursday, Oct. 11.
The taping on campus was a part of Tur’s “Campus Battleground Tour” during which she is visiting different universities to discuss voter engagement with students. Tur noted that at Washington University, 15.7 percent of students voted during the 2014 midterm elections—3.4 percent lower than the national average for college students.
College Democrats vice-president Arik Wolk cited recent events like the hearing and confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court and the school shooting in Parkland, Fla. as reasons he believes University students are energized to vote next month.
“I think Trump is certainly part of [what’s motivating college students to vote], but we’ve done a lot of really great activism in the past year or so,” Wolk said. “The day of the [Kavanaugh] hearings, everyone was watching in class, and a lot of people were really angry about that. That, combined with the activism, Trump being in the White House and gun violence…is something that is getting people excited to go out and vote.”
College Republicans treasurer Michael Almisry expressed that group’s interest in job growth and ensuring post-graduation job opportunity. He also commented on the experience of recruiting Republican students during the Trump presidency.
“A lot of people weren’t really fond of [President Trump’s] rhetoric and how he portrays himself,” Almisry told Tur during the interview. “We’re fond of a lot of the policies that he’s put forward, but we’re still very concerned about the divisive nature that he’s promoting.”
As the students prepared for their interview during a commercial break, audience members said that they noticed the lack of diversity amongst the interviewees.
“Why are you only interviewing white students?” senior Nathaniel Bernstein asked Tur during a commercial break.
Tur responded by saying that her team reached out to political organizations on campus and that her interviewees were the students whose contact information she was given, to which Bernstein responded by saying that she should have reached out to diversity groups as well.
“There are so many students of color involved [in politics]…so many organizations on this campus are political, if not in name, but in practice,” Bernstein said.
Many students vocalized their agreement with Bernstein, including graduate student Brandon Wilson, who was at the taping to raise awareness for the Fight for $15. Wilson told Tur that the Association of Black Students (ABS), of which he was a member when he was an undergraduate student at the University, is also a very political organization.
Tur was receptive to the students’ concerns, inviting Wilson to join the interview as a representative of ABS. Brandon used this opportunity to discuss the Fight for $15 when asked what issues are pressing to him in the upcoming election.
“Right now $15 an hour and a $31,000 a year minimum wage in Missouri is probably the most important,” Wilson said. “It intersects with the racial disparities we have in the city of St. Louis and throughout the state. It intersects with poverty that is endemic in our city and in our state and in our country; and so, I’m looking for politicians committed to that issue.”
In order to increase the inclusion of diverse perspectives on campus, Wilson said that he feels the responsibility falls on students with privileges that minorities lack.
“Honestly, I don’t put the onus on the minorities and people who have been excluded from the center,” Wilson said. “They have been working very hard to be included for a long, long time, and the onus is really on the people who do have that privilege to make sure that students of color are included and engaged in these issues and in these platforms.”
Bernstein echoed Wilson’s sentiment, expressing his belief in the importance of speaking up about the lack of diversity in Tur’s show, especially since he felt his privilege allowed him to do so.
“You can’t always rely on who responds first to an email, you need to be a little more intentional than that; so, I think they were really receptive once the feedback was received, I just wish that they had been considering that from the very beginning,” Bernstein said. “There’s a lot less at stake for me saying it, because I’m a white dude; and so, I need to leverage that privilege and take that as a way to get representation for other people, because I was already represented.”
Along with Fight for $15, Fossil Free WashU gained a lot of attention throughout the broadcast. Members of both groups held banners in the audience, which were clearly visible to the camera. At one point Fossil Free WashU led a chant of “Divest!”—prompting Tur to ask Wolk and Almisry the meaning of the protest during their interview.
“Fossil Free came out today because we aren’t just a movement on campus, it is transnational, and we want to make sure that divestment is always in the national news and in the presence of a lot of people’s attention,” junior Allie Lindstrom said. “We were tentatively going to talk today and be interviewed. They had to scrap it to talk a lot about the hurricane. I don’t blame them for doing that, but the irony that these special issues including the environment were cut because there’s a big environmental disaster at the moment—we needed to make sure that the conversation stayed.”
Many students commended their peers who used the taping as a platform to let their voices be heard, especially since the views of the interviewees are not shared by the entire university community.
“It was also really important that a lot of different campus groups and activists came together and showed up outside of the specific students that were being interviewed, because those students are not necessarily representative of all of the political views on campus,” senior Jessie Thornton said.