By MANDI STEFFEY
The IU South Bend American Democracy Project’s weekly show on WNIT, “Politically Speaking,” invited ten students on air last Sunday, Feb. 10, to talk about local and national political issues.
Elizabeth Bennion, an IUSB political science professor and host of “Politically Speaking,” asked students their opinions on topics ranging from gun control to women’s rights.
The student’s featured on last Sunday’s program were Ashley Ambrose, Tana Assoa, Chaise Cope, Hannah Dill, Drew Duncan, Alex Giorgio, Matt Kavanagh, Anngi Lynch, Kaweme Ng’andwe and Nick Sheppard Patel.
The students had the floor, voicing their knowledge and opinions of several political issues that impact both students and other citizens at the local and national level. One of the topics that many students commented on was gun violence and control. The students delved into the issue of whether or not concealed weapons should be allowed on college campuses.
Nick Sheppard Patel, a self-proclaimed libertarian, had strong feelings for the issue.
“I carry a firearm because I want to feel safe,” Patel said on the episode. “The only place I don’t carry my gun is on campus.”
Both Anngi Lynch and Tana Assoa disagreed.
“I don’t think adding guns on campus is a good idea,” Assoa said, voicing her concerns on the potential threat to safety that concealed weapons may pose.
“Why do we live in a society where you feel like you need to carry a gun?” questioned Lynch.
The rest of the students were equally divided on the subject.
Lynch also had something to say about another hot political topic: sex education in schools. Lynch, like some other members on the student panel, is an advocate of comprehensive sex education.
“[Comprehensive sex education] takes the reality of teens’ lives into consideration,” she said on the program. Lynch said that by teaching teens about birth control methods, problems like teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases might not be as rampant in society.
Alex Giorgio agreed.
“It’s ridiculous not to give them the tools that they need to keep them safe,” Giorgio said.
Among these topics were others that are equally socially dividing. Topics such as alcohol sales on Sundays, immigrant citizenship, abortion and LGBTQ rights were brought up as well.
Chaise Cope spoke about financial literacy—a topic that doesn’t get as much attention as the more emotionally-charged issues. Cope expressed her concerns with the college population, speaking out about how many students have been forced to drop out as a result of financial literacy. Cope said that often, students neglect to educate themselves about the FAFSA and in turn do not fill out or send the application, which can have devastating financial effects on students.
“I think it’s important to inform people about financial literacy. Students are uninformed, and I feel that talking about it on air might help kids with getting prepared for college,” Cope said of her experience on “Politically Speaking.”
Cope, along with other students on the panel, was happy to represent IUSB on-air.
“It proves that we’re politically active and watching,” she said.
Assoa, who was excited to speak on gun violence, also felt that representing IUSB was important.
“[Going on the program] showed the diversity on campus. The people involved are from all over, and I think it’s great we showed that,” she said.
Hannah Dill, president of the Student Government Association at IUSB, agreed on the positive effects of the students appearing publicly.
“Here on our campus, we know we’re awesome,” said Dill. “It’s easy to be overshadowed by other universities in the community. We proved we are intelligent, engaged—we showed them we’re a pretty cool group of kids,” she said.
“Politically Speaking” is a project run by students of IUSB’s American Democracy Project. The students are in charge of many aspects of the show, including behind-the-scenes production. Bennion, who advises the ADP, has been thrilled to host the program.
“Hosting Politically Speaking has been an exciting new challenge,” said Bennion. “I am learning new things about TV production and the behind-the-scenes work required to prepare for a live broadcast. Yet, in many ways, hosting the show is similar to teaching an upper-level seminar where students are expected to do their own research and bring their own expertise and experiences with them to class.”
Though the show is run by IUSB students, the Michiana community is able to tune in every week to experience community engagement.
“As the host, I think of the viewers as a large classroom, and try to clarify things that folks at home might not understand, and ask questions that might prove interesting and important to viewers,” Bennion said. “It’s also similar to hosting and moderating live forums and debates, which I’ve been doing for many years through the American Democracy Project. The best thing about hosting is that I get to sit down with smart, engaged people every single week to talk about issues that matter. As an educator who is passionate about informed civic engagement, hosting the show lets me expand the audience for the work I love and feel called to do.”
Every week, Bennion closes the show by telling the audience to “stay engaged.” On Sunday’s program, she had the help of ten students who believe in that message.
Watch “Politically Speaking” every Sunday at 2 p.m. on WNIT, channel 34.1.