John Brown University holds various Residence Life forums to provide students with accurate information and different perspectives on both national and international issues. JBU recently recognized the importance of responsible voting in the upcoming presidential election and invited five people on campus to talk at a forum on voting. John Macikas, resident director of J. Alvin hall hosted the forum, and more than 80 students participated.
Macikas established three main goals for the forum. “One was that students would leave the forum with greater depth, stronger humility and more confidence as it relates to voting and engaging politically,” Macikas said. Peer student groups also hosted information tables to answer participants’ detailed questions on political issues, encouraging them to be actively engaged in the forum. “We wanted students to become more aware of key issues and candidates domestically and internationally,” Macikas said. He lastly stated that the ultimate purpose of the forum was “to have students consider registering to vote and voting as it was applicable to them.”
Panels equivalently represented students and faculty members, including both conservative and liberal political views. “We wanted a panel of both students and faculty and staff to enrich the conversation and to show that students have great wisdom to offer,” Macikas said. “My goal was to present a diverse group of faculty and staff who would bring different political perspectives that deepened the conversation.”
The forum received much positive feedback from participants. “One student shared that this forum was the best forum she has experienced, and she thought the panelists had meaningful yet accessible things to say that she wanted to process more,” Macikas said.
Armando Hernandez, junior communication major, said, “I found the forum helpful in offering some inspiration to vote and how I think about voting. This inspiration came from the values held by the panel that resonated with me and allowed me to formulate my own thoughts about voting.” While he appreciated a fair perspective from both political views overall, he also wished he could hear more Republican ideals to get a second opinion. As an international student, HG Park, junior intercultural studies major, did not feel involved as much as other students did. Still, he said he thought the forum was very fair and equal for both parties. “I did really enjoy the afterwards with the different tables that showed different information,” Park said.
Brad Gambill, head of the English department, Melissa Hall, head of family and human services, and Jim Caldwell, head of construction management, represented faculty members. Seth Billingsley and Grace Schieffer, senior political science majors, participated as panelists as well. Each panel answered five questions.
Below are the questions discussed at the forum:
1. What does voting mean to you? How would you persuade someone who is not motivated to vote?
2. What issues are important to you, and how have you come to value those issues?
3. How has your Christian walk (e.g., context, theology, relationships, experience) impacted what you think is important and how you vote?
4. How do you get information about issues and candidates? Any advice that you have about how students can access quality political information?
5. How do you maintain humility and a desire to grow as you interact with others with different political opinions, including other Christians?