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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

New student organization attempts to de-polarize the political discussion

As the 2016 election season gets fully underway, students at the UA are seeking less polarizing ways to engage their peers in political discussion and activity.

One of the most recent efforts takes the form of the No Labels club. It’s a chapter of the national political organization of the same name that seeks to bring together people of different political affiliations under the banner of “problem solving.”

Democratic and Republican officials conceived No Labels as a national organization in 2010. Its slogan, “Stop Fighting. Start Fixing,” is intended as a call for effective political action in an increasingly polarized environment.

Through the efforts of UA students, the campus chapter was established last year. According to its president, Enrico Trevisani, a political science sophomore, he wanted to get it running before the 2016 election season to counter what he sees as an apathetic political culture on campus.

“We’re a politically diverse group of students on campus who meet to talk about the important issues of the day, both domestic and international,” Trevisani said. “Our goal is to foster a culture of civil discourse and political tolerance.”

One way the No Labels club does this is through presentations and forum discussions on current events. In one instance, Katie Stiff, a sophomore studying law and political science and the club’s secretary, gave a presentation on the Syrian refugee crisis, which has caused major political upheaval throughout the Middle East and southern Europe.

“The point is to present the full story and make it the topic of the meeting,” Stiff said. “Afterwards, we have the members engage in a productive conversation about it, and hopefully end the meeting with a new perspective they didn’t have in the first place.”

Along with teaching people about global events, No Labels seeks to challenge students’ preconceived ideas on politics and national events. Neil Gaynor, a junior studying economics and mathematics, says the meetings have offered him more than the typical political club.

“I’m a member of the Young Democrats club,” he said. “But when I attend those meetings, I feel like I don’t learn as much. It tends to be, ‘let’s hear what we believe and reinforce that.’”

But No Labels is not just a discussion forum on political events. According to Trevisani, one of the major goals of discussing political events is to get people actively involved in shaping them.

“We want people to find more effective ways to achieve what’s important to them, whether it’s on a local or national level,” Trevisani said. “We don’t want people to lose their political identity or ideals. We just want to educate them in an objective way that shows them the other side of the story.”

At another recent meeting, the No Labels club hosted a discussion on criminal justice reform with Joel Feinman, who was a public defender in Arizona and is currently running to become the Pima County Attorney.

“It was very interesting to hear his positions on local issues, and he also mentioned how he needed volunteers for his campaign, which I didn’t know about before,” Gaynor said. “It’s an opportunity I’m definitely looking forward to taking advantage of.”

Opening avenues for political volunteer work and involvement is a major effort the club wants to expand upon.

“So many people, myself included, are fed up with politics as usual,” Stiff said. “With this club, we’re pushing to get people to realize that nothing will actually happen until we’re willing to listen to opposing viewpoints.”

For the 2016 election, Trevisani hopes to showcase the importance of political involvement from students, both on the local and international level.

“By this election cycle, we want to change the way that our campus looks at politics,” he said. “I truly believe that our generation has the biggest potential to effect change in modern politics.”


Follow Isaac Rounseville on Twitter.


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