Gates: Students should stay informed about politics


Matt Gates, Columnist

Last week I was sitting in the dorm lounge in Allison Hall when the topic of Russia’s invasion of Crimea came up. Of about 10 people in the lounge at the time, only a few were aware of what is happening in Ukraine. Granted, this is a small sample size, but it is still concerning that a portion of the Northwestern student body is not informed about world affairs. 

NU students are extremely busy, and unless you’re a Medill student who’s lucky enough to experience current events quizzes, it is easy for us to avoid making following the news a priority. However, we as students should make an effort to break out of  “the NU bubble” and stay more informed about political issues.

Keeping on top of the news at NU may take more time than it does over breaks when we are not so pressed for time. Personally, I find that between how busy I am and how the news is not as readily available as at home, it can be difficult to stay informed. My parents are not constantly blasting the news downstairs. Newspapers do not conveniently rest on the kitchen table for easy reading. It takes actual effort to keep track of the news. But regardless of one’s academic interests, awareness of world affairs is worth knowing.

Given NU’s pre-professional environment, many students begin to focus on a specific career. But shouldn’t a college education also include becoming informed about political issues? It is easy to remain focused on your math class and ignore what is going on in the world. But aren’t both important?

Ironically, our need to stay informed actually increases as we head off to college, and many of us become trapped in the bubble. Most of us reach voting age at just about the time we make it to college. Moreover, we are often eligible to vote in our home states where we do not live for most of the year. For instance, I am able to make choices about state and local politics in my home state of New Jersey despite living in Illinois for the better part of the year. It will take extra effort to stay informed on New Jersey politics and even more if I want to be on top of local elections and town issues.

While it is hard to keep on top of the news at college, NU gives us ample opportunity to stay informed if we only take it. Newspapers sit in the front halls of many dorms.  The vast majority of students use the Internet on a daily basis. BuzzFeed is entertaining, but why not integrate some more substantive news outlets such as The New York Times or the Chicago Tribune into our daily reading material?

NU students are busy with tasks ranging from school to extracurriculars to jobs to balancing social lives on top of it all. But staying informed on international issues only takes a few minutes each day. Next time you’re in the lounge by yourself or are lucky enough to be closest to the remote, change the channel to the news. As you open up your computer to do work and shift over to BuzzFeed, take a stop at on the way there.

 Matt Gates is a Weinberg freshman. He can be reached at [email protected]. If you want to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].