By Jay Sophalkalyan
While it feels as though the 2020 Presidential Election is just around the corner, there are still more debates, national conventions, primaries, election promises, attack ads, and unavoidable political gaffes to look forward to.
Because there is so much information out there for everyone to carefully keep track of, Springfield College’s Office of Multicultural Affairs has gone ahead and come up with a series of programs called 2020 Vision.
As plain as that sounds, Charisse DelVecchio, a Graduate Associate with the Office of Multicultural Affair and one of the co-hosts of the program, explained that 2020 Vision is a series of events which are designed to educate participants, especially first-time voters, on candidates of both parties who are running for the highest office in the land.
The co-host has emphasized the fact that the program “is not a space for debating issues, but [for] learning, sharing, hearing, and growing,” and the main objectives of the event series is to make sure that all participants feel prepared, to assist them with voter registration, and to help them understand the primary and caucus process, and voters’ rights, regardless of their party affiliation.
On Wednesday, October 2, as part of the series, DelVecchio started off by introducing each presidential candidate to the participants and where they stand on LGBTQIA+ rights. The co host informed audience members about the diversity within this community itself as she said, “LGBTQIA+ community is not a voting monolith, and therefore we should not assume that being a member of the community automatically makes someone a Democrat or ideologically liberal,” before she went on to talk about the candidates’ messages and actions (and potential incongruity) regarding their support or lack of support for the community.
When DelVecchio was asked about the significance of 2020 Vision, she responded, “I believe this program is important because I think we are all impacted by political action and non-action at all levels: local, state, national and global. There is a common belief that talking about politics is not polite or socially appropriate. But it is necessary. I think we can learn to have these necessary conversations with respect, authenticity, and openness.”
Second-year Art Therapy major Bunny Halloran, one of DelVecchio’s audience members, claimed that she will vote for the first time in the 2020 election and explained her reasoning for participating in the event series.
“I joined 2020 Vision because I think it is an essential resource for me to learn how I can best use my vote in the most important, upcoming election,” Halloran said. “I believe that the issue of the 2016 presidential election was due to the fact that Americans were not educated on where their votes were going, how significant each vote was, and why they should treat their votes with value and not as a throwaway joke,” Halloran added.
Halloran then continued to talk about how her involvement in the forum had benefited her. “The 2020 Vision discussion provided a safe atmosphere for me to discuss our candidates and ask questions or share my beliefs without being scared of outing myself in a way I did not mean to, which often happens when I discuss the importance of LGBTQIA+ and women’s rights in a political climate anywhere else,” she said.
“It has benefited me in terms of knowledge by providing a mostly unbiased presentation of information, listing both the faults and successes of supporters of the LGBTQIA+ and women’s rights movements, respectively, especially since both communities are often quickly trusted or praised by people merely because they tweeted something positive or supportive about the communities once or twice,” Halloran added.
“It is more important to know what the candidates have voted on in the past and what they have lobbied for or against than to know their Twitter history,” she concluded her thoughts with.
While a great number of people at Springfield College have joined and appreciated what 2020 Vision has to offer, some could not help but to question the program itself in terms of its credibility.
There is no denying that the majority of people at Springfield College are ideologically liberal. Furthermore, topics up for discussion in the series of events such as racism, LGBTQIA+ issues, reproductive rights, immigration, and Islamophobia are more in the social justice spectrum – essentially, the political ideology and stance of the 21st century is progressive, liberal, and democratic.
In a way, some people feel that 2020 Vision is Springfield College’s way – or at least the Office of Multicultural Affairs’ way – of conditioning students or endorsing the Democratic Party.
In response to these concerns, DelVecchio said, “Currently, with so many Democrats crowding the race, these [social justice] issues are a great way of differentiating between their policies and voting records. There is actually a surprising amount of diversity even within the party. In addition, I always provide multiple perspectives using direct quotes, voting records, and policies from all political ideologies,” she said.
“For example, during the most recent program, we heard from LGBTQIA+ folks who are avid Republicans and intend to vote for Trump in 2020. Similarly, when we talk about race in our next program, we will hear from young people of color who defend their loyalty to the Republican party and President Trump. These issues are not just for or about Democrats or Liberals. Republicans and Conservatives have opinions and ideas too, and I highlight those,” she added.
Additionally, DelVecchio added, “It’s also important to add that talking about social justice issues is not just a conversation about abstract ideas. We are talking about people’s lives and experiences and the ways in which politics play a role in lived experiences. It may be my bias, but I believe I have an ethical responsibility to cover these topics in this context. I remain open to all opinions, and this program is for all voters. There is always space and respect for everyone. I hope students of all ideologies will feel comfortable enough to come and diversify the conversations,” she said.
With that being said, participants can expect more events to come. The next program will be on October 16, where the forum co-hosts will be focusing on racism and criminal issues.
This will undoubtedly be a challenging and personal topic. There will be footage from The Young Black Leadership Summit, a four-day conference for Black Republicans, with the intention of demonstrating that party affiliation cannot be assumed by one’s identity.
Participants will hear from these young black conservatives on their impression of race relations and bipartisanship. The following program, on October 30, will cover healthcare, guns, and related domestic policy issues with a similar format in which candidates’ voting records, policies, and political statements will be cited.
For any further questions, please contact the Office of Multicultural Affairs.
Photo Courtesy Springfield College Marketing & Communications