Professor says students are more aware of issues

By Bryan Malenius

An NIU professor believes students are much more pragmatic and conservative than their parents were during their college days.

William McCready, associate professor of sociology, said students are becoming more aware of the economic realities of life at a younger age.

“For years, people grew up understanding they had to sacrifice because of the big communist threat,” McCready said.

“Now that the communist threat has all but ended, people, especially students, are expecting their government to turn inward and deal with the problems here.”

McCready aided in the gathering of information for a current study on political activity. The NIU Social Science and Research Center helped screen over 13,000 families to get in touch with their levels of political activity.

McCready observed that students are becoming very involved in political parties and elections. He said this can be attributed to the high volume of issues facing students.

“People tend to participate more politically based on self- interest,” he said. “For example, students were active during the Vietnam era because it affected them directly. They could be drafted.

“Students today face massive spending cuts in higher education. Again, it seriously affects them.”

McCready said the media also plays a big part in keeping students aware of the issues, almost to the extent of providing “so much information people can’t make sense out of it.”

However, Steve Sliga, a graduate of the NIU public administration program, said just because the modern media is so huge doesn’t necessarily mean it is helping students make sound decisions.

“I believe that students today think they are politically aware but I think their awareness is misguided,” Sliga said. “While many students think they know the issues and structure of our government, they are being misled by the biased liberal media.”

Sliga said the media has taken it upon themselves to portray our political system as a popularity contest based on superficial ideas, “instead of issues and moralistic values.”

The idea that the government should turn itself inward and away from the arena of foreign affairs is “very short sighted,” Sliga said.

“There are so many issues and claims out there it’s really difficult to sort it all out,” said Laura Knoll, a junior economics major.

“I’m voting for George Bush because I feel I know and trust him,” she said. “I would have no idea what I was getting myself into if I voted for someone like Ross Perot.”

McCready said there are various reasons for students’ political identification and participation.

“While you might associate poorer people with the democratic party, you sometimes run into people who, despite their low income level, work very hard and resent high levels of government handouts associated with the democratic party,” McCready said.

“The same holds true on the other end of the spectrum,” he said. “You see wealthier people who might feel a bit guilty about their easy life and think increased government spending for the poor is okay.”

McCready said the results of the survey, which NIU’s research lab helped conduct, are being processed out East and will be published soon.