The political life


Jeremia Schrock / Sun Star Columnist
March 22, 2011

It’s easy to assume that once a political campaign season ends, whether it be for a local or national election, that the politicking ceases right along with it. As the cliché goes, however, to assume will make a you-know-what out of “u” and “me.”

“Politics affects everything, and our government was set up with the express intention of having people participate in the decision making process,” James Shewmake said. Shewmake, a master’s student in natural resource management, is also co-founder of the UAF Campus Democrats. He established the group toward the end of the 2010 campaign season with the express intent of getting more students involved with political activism.

For Shewmake, the club is about encouraging participation and activism in politics. “Political parties and democratic forms of government are only as effective as the people who are involved,” Shewmake said. “Simply sitting back and criticizing both parties while remaining apathetic really accomplishes nothing,” adding that a group such as the UAF Campus Democrats allows “young people” the opportunity to become involved. Shewmake also said that joining such organizations gives students the chance to become better acquainted with both local and state officials and helps them to better understand what goes on behind the scenes during a political campaign.

Ashley Briggs, an undergraduate in broadcast journalism, produces Fairbanks Focus: Alaska View, a weekly round-table program hosted by former Borough Mayor Jim Whitaker. Briggs said that prior to becoming involved with the program she felt “out of the loop on anything current.” Hosting the show has given her the opportunity to become better informed.

“Anytime someone brings up something about a bill being discussed or any kind of new legislation, that is always new to me,” Briggs said. “[It’s] something I wouldn’t know about without the round table.” Briggs added that she rarely takes sides in political debates and, in spite of her role as producer of a political talk show, has never really been into politics.

ASUAF Vice President Mari Freitag feels just the opposite. “I love following politics!” she said in an email. Freitag, a political science major, said that even if she hadn’t been elected vice president of the student government, she would still have been just as politically aware as she is now. She stated that she ran for the VP slot after her friend Nikki Carvajal (the current ASUAF President) asked her to be her running mate.  She ran with Carvajal because she felt that being VP would be a “good challenge.”

After she and Carvajal won the election in a landslide, Freitag began to see just how much of a challenge her new role would become. “This job has taught me how to deal with people more than anything. It’s showed me that I can’t make everyone happy and that I need to be ok with that.” Freitag added that her tenure as VP has better exposed her to the inner workings of the university system which she says helps her better explain issues to students.

Keeping all this in mind, the political life of UAF is alive and well. Not just because student government elections are around the corner (this April), but because for several students, politics is infused directly into life. Whether it be on a talk show, at lunch in the Wood Center or on Facebook chat, talking politics and dealing with politics is difficult to avoid.

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