March 22, 2012
More than 75 Indiana State University students gathered to learn about and discuss the role of money in the political system during Pizza and Politics Tuesday . A group of political science faculty and students, along with Union Board, hosted the free event in Hulman Memorial Student Union.
Matthew Bergbower, assistant professor of political science, began by introducing how political campaigns are financed. He focused specifically on the new phenomenon of political action committees and super-political action committees, independent organizations which campaign for or against political candidates.
"We dissect it, how it came about, and talk about the advantages, disadvantages, and consequences," said Bergbower.
He kept students engaged and added bits of humor, including showing a brief Steven Colbert video which drew laughs from students.
Following the presentation, students discussed the topic in groups of six to eight.
Each group was given a scenario in which they represented a specific person within the political system. Roles ranged from average working families to billionaires and emphasized the varied ability of each person to impact the political system, depending on their financial situation.
"This comes down to political voice. Do you think these billionaires have more political voice than the average voter?" asked Carly Schmitt, a political science instructor, motioning to the tables of "billionaires" and "average" voters.
Group leader Charlie Ricker, a senior political science major from Indianapolis, led one table's discussion.
"Do you feel like with this income and life that you can make a difference?" Ricker asked his group, who represented a working class family with two children in the scenario.
Freshman Ian Imel, a pre-law major, didn't think so.
"Money is free speech. Our system doesn't necessarily level the playing field," said Imel, who has volunteered with political campaigns. "It seems like the upper 1 percent is taking control of most of what we hear, what we think, and what we see on TV. We as Americans need to step up and take some initiative."
Following group discussions, students convened as a large group to share perspectives.
While some agreed with Imel, other students supported the current system, suggesting that it is fair because it is based on the amount a candidate can raise rather than personal wealth. Still others proposed ideas from certain other countries where campaigning is allowed only a few months prior to the election and each candidate receives an equal amount of press time.
In addition, faculty advised students to consider the actual participation of the public as opposed to how much citizens should be involved in the political process.
"Typically, the public is uninformed. They're just going off what they've seen on Fox or MSNBC," said Deonte Nance, a senior legal studies major from Chicago. "I think this event is beneficial because we get a better idea of the political system, specifically PACs and Super-PACs."
"This makes you more aware of things most people are not aware of."
Contact: Matthew Bergbower, Indiana State University, assistant professor of political science, at 812-237-2518 or Matthew.Bergbower@indstate.edu
Writer: Bethany Donat, media relations assistant, ISU Communications and Marketing, at 812-237-3773 or firstname.lastname@example.org
More than 75 Indiana State University students gathered to learn about and discuss the role of money in the political system during 'Pizza and Politics' Tuesday.