Class Explores Upcoming Election
Discussion Shows That Votes Do Count
September 29, 2006 10:58 PM
As twilight settled over SF State and the flow of people across campus slowed to a trickle, a medley of students seated themselves in the Humanities Auditorium Sept. 27.
These 50 or more students sat waiting for this semester’s BSS 275 course, titled “California: The Promise vs. the Reality in the 2006 Election,” to begin.
As soon as the panelists organized themselves onstage, and the echoes of whispers and shuffled papers from the audience quieted, Joel Kassiola, dean of the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, welcomed the class and introduced the evening’s discussion point.
Since 2003, the college of BSS has offered a broad-themed course with weekly rotating topics and a panelist-based discussion for both registered and drop-in students. While this semester’s theme focuses on the Nov. 7 local, state and national elections, past classes have explored ideas of social justice and social change, and the 2004 presidential elections.
As many as 18 different SF State departments are represented in this semester’s pool of 34 scheduled panelists, and former Senator John Burton spoke in the third week of class.
Many of this semester’s attendees said the structure of the class provides them with a deeper understanding of California history and politics through the variety of perspectives presented by these panelists.
Past discussions have honed in on topics such as recent California history, Republican and Democratic visions, the history of California's economy and the history of California demographics.
“I think it’s worthwhile. They cover some issues that they don’t cover as in-depth in the newspaper,” said SF State chemistry major Robert Theis, 30. “It feels like when you read the newspaper you just get a sound bite, but here they go over the topics.”
Theis’ classmate, John McDonald, 38, an SF State liberal studies major, agreed with Theis that this semester’s class provides students with relevant information so they can make informed decisions at the ballots.
“It shows you that you can make a difference, that your vote does count,” McDonald said. “The main thing is knowing what’s going on before you do vote.”
According to Kathryn Johnson, coordinator of special projects for the college of BSS and co-facilitator alongside Kassiola, one goal of the class is to show students their studies are applicable to real life.
“It’s the idea of raising these issues in a way that is relevant to their studies,” Johnson said.
Johnson also explained that the course helps students to identify their own political beliefs.
“It’s kind of a reflective course that takes you from the personal to the political,” she said.
For some of the panelists who participate in the weekly discussions, it’s hard to see the impact of their cumulative work.
“It’s difficult to say if it changed their views,” said History Professor Abdiel Onate, a panelist from a class dedicated to California history and demographics. “But one thing is clear: that they are better informed, that they have different perspectives on the same problems.”
For some students, these “different perspectives” apply to real life not only in a political sphere, but in other ways as well.
Although most of her students aspire to be Superman, Sullivan said that they now know, “When they grow up, they’ll have the power to vote and that’s pretty strong.”
All classes are open to the public and take place Wednesday evenings from 7:15-8:55 in Humanities 133. A complete copy of this semester's BSS 275 class schedule and featured panelists is available at www.bss.sfsu.edu/bss/.
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