Letter writing workshop aims to involve students in politics

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On Wednesday, Oct. 24, at 7 p.m., the SVSU Writing Center and Center for Community Engagement hosted a political letter writing workshop and debate watch in Zahnow’s Roberta Allen Reading Room.

The event opened with an overall discussion that gave students the opportunity to talk about the political issues affecting Michigan. The discussion was followed by the political letter writing workshop and a viewing of the debate between Michigan gubernatorial candidates Gretchen Whitmore and Bill Schuette. The event concluded with a reflection of the debate and a discussion of how each candidate addressed key issues.

Writing Center tutor Joshua Cianek’s experience in local government inspired him to host the event.

“I spent a summer in Lansing as a legislative liaison, and my main task was communicating with constituents,” Cianek said. “The letters that came individually from people who were concerned about a political issue were taken with the utmost importance. The representative would typically read those letters as they were. Having those individualized concerns and putting a narrative behind the concern is important, and writing is a really effective way to do that.”

Helen Raica-Klotz, the Writing Center director, said that the success of community events played a part in making the event a reality.

“At our Community Writing Centers, we collaborated with organizations to do a ‘Write Your Future Governor’ campaign,” Raica-Klotz said. “We sent over 3,000 postcards to area schools to be filled out by students.”

For Racia-Klotz, the event provided an opportunity to move students away from their instant messaging mindset and force them to think about their ideas.

“I think that part of being an educated citizen is being able to articulate your views and beliefs,” Racia-Klotz said. “I think that we live in an age of Tweets and short bursts of responses instead of being thoughtful and provocative about things that we care about. I think this event is a step towards engaging in thoughtful conversation.”

Special education freshman Ryan Talaski enjoyed the event, which allowed him to learn about different points of view.

“I think it’s interesting to hear other people’s ideas,” he said. “I don’t get to keep up with politics as much as I did in high school, now that I’m in college. I heard a lot about different issues that I hadn’t considered before.”

Cianek stressed the importance of being politically active and making sure your concerns are heard.

“University students are the largest demographic that are apathetic towards voting,” Cianek said. “Encouraging political activism is important on college campuses. If we want our concerns to be heard, we have to be active about going out and voicing them.”

Cianek hopes that the event educated students and encouraged them to vote in the upcoming election.

“Once you give people the opportunity to learn about certain issues that pertain to them and the background knowledge and information they need, they have that incentive to get involved on an issue,” Cianek said. “This event is a way to get students involved politically, and hopefully, after going to this event, students are much more likely to vote.”