By Anjali Kumar
When I started as a freshman in Eleanor Roosevelt College at UC San Diego in 1998, I knew I wanted to be an ecologist. Being from New Jersey, I was excited by all the opportunities an ecologist would have living next to the ocean, desert, and mountains of San Diego. UCSD is also well known for its science, technology, engineering, and math education, so I knew I was in the right place.
During the first week of classes, I remember walking down Library Walk and registering to vote in California with my suitemates. How exciting it was to be living in a state that cared so much about the environment and being able to proudly use my voice as a STEM student in a University of California school. The first time we voted that year was in November to elect a new governor for California. We walked over to Price Center and voted before class, exercising our civic rights and duties. It felt powerful to vote together as a group and share in democracy with each other.
Voting is the way that we decide, as a country and a community, what kind of laws we want and who should be in our government representing us. As an ecologist, I see the impacts of elections in policies that affect desert ecosystems, endangered species, and keeping our oceans healthy and clean.
At UCSD in 2017, 95 percent of undergraduates received degrees in the engineering, math, and the natural and social sciences. Research has shown that STEM students vote less than other majors, with education majors making up the greatest percentage of voters. Why is this? It has been argued that STEM majors see less of a connection between their vote and the direct effect on their community. Arts and humanities majors, on the other hand, vote frequently, are involved in social activism, and believe their vote can affect their community. As a predominantly STEM university, the UCSD community needs to show it cares by coming out to vote.
This is a year when high school and college students, women, and people of color are turning out in record numbers to make our voices heard. At UCSD, approximately 71 percent of the undergraduate student body are students of color. Our university community can make a huge impact if we all vote. STEM is not just about science, it is about people too. We are women, immigrants, people of color, and other marginalized groups that face challenges as scientists and as humans. Let’s make history and show that STEM majors care about civic engagement and our university community.
This letter was originally published by Dr. Anjali Kumar in the Guardian, the student newspaper of the University of California at San Diego. It is reprinted here with the author’s permission.