Professor promotes student activism during election-week lecture series

Maren Dougherty

Political structure is divided sharply along the lines of social class, author and Boston College professor Kay Schlozman told an audience of more than 40 people at the McCormick Tribune Center Forum on Monday night.

Schlozman’s speech, titled “What do we want? Political equality! When are we gonna get it? Never,” was part of the Undergraduate Lecture Series on Poverty, Race and Inequality. Tyler Jaeckel, the series’ co-chairman, said he and fellow student organizers hope to promote informed student action through events this week.

“We want to inspire activism throughout campus,” said Jaeckel, a Weinberg sophomore. “Hopefully (people will gain) a sense of the political inequalities in America.”

Schlozman, editor of “Elections in America” and co-author of “Injury to Insult: Unemployment, Class and Political Response,” said the extent of political inequality in the United States has remained largely unchanged in the past two decades.

Using graphs she showed that children of educated parents tend to participate in politics twice as often as those of less educated parents.

Schlozman said people avoid politics for three reasons, all rooted in education: “because they can’t, because they won’t or because no one asked them to.”

In addition, she said, the U.S. political structure might be prone to inequality because of relatively weaker unions and political parties.

“In the U.S., we don’t have any working class or peasant parties,” she said.

If these organizations are cohesive, they mobilize people who might not be active, Schlozman said.

Schlozman was the keynote speaker for the lecture series, which began Saturday with an activity to mobilize residents of low-income Chicago neighborhoods.

About 17 NU students met with University of Chicago students and the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, America’s largest organization of low- and moderate-income families. In Chicago they went door-to-door to register people to vote and hear concerns.

“A lot of times (they talk) about gangs in the neighborhood and they’ll go lobby for more police or better lighting,” Jaeckel said.

The group’s other goal is to encourage people to act — without waiting for others to do it for them, Jaeckel said.

“We went down streets knocking on doors,” said Weinberg freshman Andy Gupta, who worked two hours and registered more than 30 voters with his group in North Lawndale, a west side Chicago neighborhood.

The lecture series began last year with Dale Vieregge, Weinberg ’03, and Laurie Jaeckel, Weinberg ’03, older sister to current co-chairman Tyler. Events are sponsored by the Office of the Provost, Institute for Policy Research, the Department of Political Science and the Barry Farrell Fund.

Events continue Wednesday with a panel discussion titled, “Who Gets to Vote? Felons, Absentees and Democracy” at 7 p.m. in the McCormick Tribune Center. On Thursday a luncheon and speech called “Gerrymandering, Lobbying and Politics in America” by George Mitchell, head of the Evanston Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, will be at 12:30 p.m. in Annenberg Hall.