Let Me See U Vote forum raises awareness on political issues

Wednesday, September 26, 2012 | 11:17 p.m. CDT; updated 7:27 a.m. CDT, Thursday, September 27, 2012
About 150 people attended Let Me See U Vote to hear discussions about different social issues, such as education, health care, women's issues and LGBTQ rights.

COLUMBIA — To energize and inform voters.

Those are the two principles on which Omega Psi Phi based Wednesday night's event, Let Me See U Vote. Because part of the fraternity's mission is to increase voter registration, it hosted a forum to discuss current social issues that are playing a role in this fall's election.

"We want Mizzou to rule," said John Mitchell, a fraternity brother and Let Me See U Vote organizer. "We want Mizzou students to vote."

About 150 people attended the event to hear discussions about different social issues, such as education, health care, women's issues and LGBTQ rights.

Omega Psi Phi co-hosted the event with the Associated Students of the University of Missouri.

"I'm in heaven right now, knowing so many students are being educated to make an informed decision come Election Day," said Roshaunda McLean, president of the student lobbying group. 

These issues were chosen because they have their own movement separate from political campaigning but will still play a significant role in the election in November. 

"As a young lady, I hear about women's issues," said Leia Taylor, a senior in mass media and communication, who was concerned about contraception and regular checkups. "That is really, really important since we're in college. Some of us are on our parents' insurance and some of us are not, and either way we need the medication." 

At the forum, a panel of experts spoke on each of the different topics.

Joan Hermsen, chairwoman of the Women's and Gender Studies Department, spoke about women's issues and brought attention to three pending pieces of federal legislation: The Paycheck Fairness Act, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the Equal Employment Opportunity Act. 

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act would require employers to make reasonable arrangements for those who are pregnant, she said.  

"They should not be treated like they have a disability," she said. 

According to Hermsen, this piece of legislation was particularly important to college educated women because they are going to wait longer to have children. 

"You're going to wait later, into your late 20s or 30s," Hermsen said. "You might find yourself needing this (legislation) somewhere down the line, so you can keep your job."

Claire Cook, the Kansas City and Mid-Missouri regional field organizer of PROMO, an LGBTQ equality group, spoke about LGBTQ issues and how it is legal in Missouri to be fired for being gay.

"When you're able to be out in the world, you're more successful and productive," Cook said. 

She also challenged students to go out and vote because that allows them to take a seat at the table where issues are discussed, and said, "If you're not at the table, you're on the menu."

Judy Baker, the former regional director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, spoke about health care. The main reason why the Affordable Care Act was created was because 40 million people don't have health care, including young adults and those with preexisting conditions, she said. Under the new act, young adults are able to stay on their parents' health insurance until they're 26 years old.

Rajeev Darolia, a professor at the MU Truman School of Public Affairs, spoke about education funding, student loans and financial aid. He spoke about the trends in the rising costs of a college education and how much government funding goes to companies that operate for-profit education.

According to McLean, the Associated Students of the University of Missouri will hold voter registrations on Mondays through Thursdays, and sometimes Fridays, at various locations and times.

From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday, the group will be in front of the MU Student Center helping students register to vote and will be giving away T-shirts and food. 

Supervising editor is Zach Murdock.

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