Letters to the Editor

Vote to change our country

Medicare, social security, prescription drugs-these are the domestic issues that dominate national political debate. It’s not surprising. Senior citizens vote at twice the rate of 18-24 year-olds. Since winning the right to vote in 1972, young voters have steadily lost ground; in the last presidential election, an abysmal 36 percent of eligible 18-24 year-olds voted.

Politicians don’t talk to us, young people don’t vote, and the vicious cycle continues.

MassPIRG’s New Voters Project (NVP) is working to change that. A multimillion dollar effort, researched at Yale and funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts, NVP is the largest youth voting campaign in American history. It will register half a million young voters nationwide and then turn out thousands of them on Nov. 2, enough to change the nature of our democracy.

The Amherst NVP is working to increase voter registration at the College by five percent. This is a nonpartisan campaign-how new voters vote doesn’t matter. Nor are we focused on turnout for a single election or swing state. The disregard for our issues-higher education and free expression and the environment-does not originate in a quadrennial election. This is about engendering engagement rather than apathy, creating a 24-million-strong block of voters to whom politicians must, out of self-preservation, hold themselves accountable.

MassPIRG’s overarching goal is to increase voter turnout. Without a compelling interest elsewhere, students should vote in Massachusetts. We live here nine months of the year, and local issues (UMass’s funding, air/water quality) affect us. Voting in Massachusetts is easier-polls are five minutes away, there are no early absentee deadlines to meet and there is only a single form to file. Be wary of your state’s absentee voting laws-many states don’t count absentee ballots except in a tie. No state verifies your ballot’s receipt.

We certainly won’t discourage home-state voting. But students without reason otherwise should vote where they actually live-Massachusetts.

We look forward to working with other campus groups, like the Voting Initiative, to provide absentee ballots for those students who have chosen that method. Amherst has been lucky to experience a voter registration explosion, thanks to many dedicated students.

But we hope the election frenzy is not misplaced. The flaws in our democracy run deeper than that. Every vote counts, wherever it is cast-to advocate otherwise is a profoundly pessimistic view of American politics. With each new young voter, we move closer to a more sweeping goal, changing not one, but all politicians. Help make them pay attention to us.

Athletic Jews need to choose

Athletic Jews need to choose

I find The Amherst Student’s proposal that the College suspend athletic games for Yom Kippur absurd. As a Jew myself, I understand the great importance of our Days of Awe, but I can’t support the editorial staff’s views for the following reasons.

First of all, if The Student acknowledges that the “question of how to celebrate one’s faith is a deeply personal one,” then it should not support a ruling that effectively endorses one mode of celebration. For those students who are truly committed to their religion, the decision to abstain from athletics on Yom Kippur should not be a difficult or burdensome one. Indeed, major league baseball legends Sandy Koufax and Hank Greenberg can, and often do, serve as positive role-models in this regard.

Secondly, for non-observant Jews and for the Gentile majority of the student body, The Student’s proposition promises to have harmful consequences. Amherst is a nonsectarian institution, and canceling athletics for a religious holiday would set a dangerous precedent. I would argue that such an action is roughly analogous to a hypothetical closing of Valentine during the Muslim month of Ramadan. Should all Amherst students have to fast all day just because a Muslim minority does? The answer is no, and, likewise, athletic events should not be canceled merely for the sake of a minority of observant Jews.

Speed bumps are unnecessary

Speed bumps are unnecessary

Let no one say that Amherst College doesn’t care about the safety of its students. Anyone who doubted the College’s commitment to safety has now been answered with three enormous speed bumps/crosswalks. And we have proven to the world that Amherst will spend thousands of dollars to protect its students from themselves.

Don’t get me wrong. Last year, it was clear that something needed to be done. Students, even sober ones, had been hit by speeding cars, and it was clear that if we maintained the status quo, someone would eventually be killed. The College was right to take swift preventative measures. But still, I can’t drive over those bumps without wondering how much they cost.

In installing these bumps, we have selected the most coddling and least cost-effective solution to our problems. Rather than reminding students to take care, we have only reinforced the rural Massachusetts assumption that cars will yield to pedestrians. Drivers unfamiliar with the area are arguably more of a threat now than they were pre-crosswalks.

The new lights and signs are an important boon to pedestrian safety on Route 9. But the College is entitled to expect a reasonable effort by students to preserve their own existences. By not holding students to these expectations, and instead spending vast amounts to rip up the streets, the College has inflicted yet another minor inconvenience on the community.