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college students

METRO photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

This generation of college students have dealt with numerous shocks in their short lives. Most of them were born around the time of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. That event triggered several battles on foreign soil, led to the Department of Homeland Security, and created a world in which people took off their shoes at the airport and passed through metal detectors on the way in to concerts and sporting events.

As if that weren’t enough, this generation then had to deal with the 2008 financial crisis, when Lehman Brothers went bankrupt and when life, for many, became considerably more challenging amid a painful decline in the subprime housing market.

Through their upbringing, they also heard about mass shootings, some of which occurred at school. They practiced shelter-in-place and had nightmares about killers roaming the same hallways where artwork depicting students’ families and the alphabet adorned the walls.

The contentious 2016 presidential election brought two largely unpopular choices onto center stage. After a bitter election fight, the country didn’t have much time to heal, as the Democrats and Republicans transformed into the Montagues and Capulets.

Indeed, while each side dug in deeply, their respective media supporters expressed nonstop outrage and acted dumbfounded by the misdirection and apparent idiocy of the leaders and their minions across the aisle.

Then 2020 happened. The virus has killed over 120,000 Americans, crippled economies, led to mass layoffs and unemployment and turned the hug and the handshake into bygone gestures from six months ago that somehow seem even longer ago. With the killing of Minneapolis resident George Floyd, many protesters weathered the viral storm that had kept them inside for months to express outrage at a system where equal protection under the law seemed like a distant ideal.

Now, these same students face the possibility of returning to school. Some colleges have told their students to return earlier than normal, to forego visits to friend’s dorms, and to wear masks and social distance.

It seems likely that many of these colleges’ students, who have a familiar youth-inspired independent streak, will defy these new rules, much the same way many in the general public, including President Donald Trump (R), shun the idea of wearing masks.

If  I were running a college, and I’m glad I’m not because I’m struggling to provide sound  advice to two teenagers, I would triple and quadruple my medical staff. I would urge regular testing and I would make sure my college had the best possible treatments and plans ready.

Fortunately, the treatments for the virus have improved from the beginning, as the medical community has raced to provide relief to those battling draining and debilitating symptoms that have lasted for weeks or even months.

When people do contract the virus, as they inevitably will at some of these schools, I would urge students to rally around each other, their professors and anyone else who contracted COVID-19.

Unfortunately, this generation has had to grow up rapidly, to see ways each of them can play a role in helping each other. Students may not only become involved in the standard blood drives; they may urge their peers to check for antibodies and to donate convalescent plasma, which may help save lives and ameliorate the worst of the viral symptoms.

The modern college student doesn’t have to look to distant shores to find people overwhelmed and in need of their youthful energy and good intentions.

Many college students want to be relevant and contribute. They can and will have ample opportunities, with their antibodies, with their understanding and empathy, and with their ongoing resilience in the face of a lifetime of challenges.

Stock photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

You know that summer camp game where two or more teams line up with a spoon? The objective is to carry a tablespoon of water across a small lawn to the other side, dump whatever you can keep on the spoon into the cup on the other side, and race back with the spoon so that the next person can bring as much water as quickly as possible to your cup.

For me, parenting is about battling the urge to sprint at top speed, hoping that there’s at least some water to dump into the cup on the other side.

I had one of those moments when I wanted to share all the right pieces of advice for our daughter as we drove her to college. Would she even hear the pearls of wisdom I was trying not to drop from the spoon?

My first thought was to tell her that, “You get out of it what you put into it.” Of course everyone who passes the requisite classes gets a degree. What differentiates one set of experiences from another is the amount of energy, effort and dedication from the student. I scratched that one off the list because she’d heard it too many times before. If that lesson were going to make it into the cup, it had plenty of time to do so.

Then, it occurred to me to tell her to study smarter and harder, in that order. I wanted her to put in genuine effort — see the previous piece of unspoken advice — but I also felt that she needed to focus her efforts on specific chapters or concepts. Exams don’t tend to demand total recall of every word on every page in a textbook. Try to figure out, perhaps with some help from upper-class people or your resident adviser, what are the most important ideas for each class.

I considered telling her to appreciate and learn from her mistakes. I had suggested that homily in her academic life, on an athletic field and in her social interactions. I couldn’t possibly say that on the ride to college because her response, at best, would be some version of, “Daaaaaaaddd!” No, clearly, telling her to learn from her mistakes would be a mistake.

Maybe, just as I contemplated another recommendation, the clear skies on the drive ahead were a sign that I was on the right track. I wanted to tell her to get to know her professors, regardless of the size of the class. In fact, the larger the class, the greater the need to walk up to her teachers, introduce herself and express an eagerness to learn about a subject this person had spent a professional career teaching.

Maybe I should also tell her not to fall behind. Catching up becomes a regular struggle when the professor has moved away from the lessons you’re trying to process and commit to memory.

By the time we arrived at school, I hadn’t shared any of those words of wisdom or fortune cookie advice, depending on your perspective, because our daughter slept during much of the car ride. Carrying boxes, bins and bags up the stairs became the primary focus, as did trying not to sweat too profusely over everything I was lugging into her room.

As she was scrambling to figure out how to attach pictures of her friends to a wall, it was clear the timing wasn’t ideal to offer advice. Maybe it’s best this way: She’s now reached an age and a stage in life when she’s got to figure out how to fill her own cup with water.

Students holding buttons at voter registration

By Judie Gorenstein

New York ranked 41 out of 50 states in voter turnout in 2016 and 49 out of 50 in the 2014 off-year election. Of all eligible New York voters, only 28.2 percent voted in 2014. When you look at the youngest age group, those between 18 and 25 years old, the turnout is even lower. And nationally in 2016, 70 percent of those over 70 years old voted. By contrast, only 43 percent of those under 25 did.

As Election Day approaches, students who leave for college will ask how and where they should register and vote. Although a Supreme Court decision in 1979 gave all students the right to vote where they attend college, election law is a state’s right. Each state thus has its own laws regarding voting, including registration deadlines, residency and identification requirements (ID) at the polls. 

In New York State, any citizen not in jail for a felony conviction can register to vote in the year they turn 18. To vote this year they must be registered by Oct. 12 and be 18 by Nov. 6, the date of the 2018 General Election. 

Even if a college student is living in another state or another New York county, they can ALWAYS vote absentee in their home district, which is a two-step process. They first need to complete an absentee ballot application and mail or deliver it to their county Board of Elections by Oct. 30. (The application form can be downloaded from NY BOE at https://www.elections.ny.gov/NYSBOE/download/voting/AbsenteeBallot-English.pdf and is available at libraries, post offices and the BOE.) 

The BOE will mail the actual ballot to the student, who must return it to the BOE postmarked by Nov 5. As long as the ballot was correctly completed and received by the BOE no later than 7 days after Election Day, the vote will be counted. Absentee ballots matter … they can change an election’s outcome.  

Frequently college students decide to register and vote where they are attending college. They feel it is important to get connected and have a voice on the issues in their new community and in the state where they may be living for four plus years. The Supreme Court may have given college students the right to vote where they go to college, but students are NOT ALWAYS ABLE to vote there. Some states have put up barriers to out-of-state students through their ID and residency requirements.  

Although New York in most cases does not require any voter ID at the polls, 34 states do so, with 17 states requiring photo ID. In Pennsylvania a college photo ID is sufficient while in other states it is not. In Texas a state-issued driver’s license or handgun license is accepted but not a college ID.  

Election laws can change. New Hampshire has just tightened its voter residency requirements, making it necessary for a student to register his or her car in New Hampshire and obtain a New Hampshire driver’s license. Students who want to vote at their college address should access that state’s most current requirements at www.campusvoteproject.org/ for election law and registration deadline information. “Your Right to Vote in New York State for College Students” is also available from LWVNYS at https://www.lwvny.org/advocacy/vote/RTVCollegeStudents.pdf 

In this time of student activism, those interested in a political career should strongly consider voting absentee; the residency requirement for a New York State candidate is living in the state or district for five years prior to being able to get on the ballot. But whether students decide to register and vote absentee in New York or in their college community, it is important that they learn about the issues and the candidates on their ballot, and VOTE. Our democracy works best when everyone participates.

Judie Gorenstein is vice president for voter services of the League of Women Voters of Suffolk County, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government and influences public policy through education and advocacy. For more information, visit https://www.lwv-suffolkcounty.org, email [email protected] or call 631-862-6860.