Learning Politics


Chol Majok brought a simple yet powerful message to students at Onondaga Community College. “You should vote because it is a fundamental right for you. Voting is a privilege I will never take for granted.” Majok is one of the Lost Boys of Sudan, a refugee who came to the United States 15 years ago. He came from a country in which voting was not a right.

Chol Majok
Chol Majok

Majok’s first opportunity to vote in the United States was in 2008. “I couldn’t wait for the November election. I was excited. I saw this country as full of opportunities. I couldn’t wait for the polls to open. When I walked out I held my head so high because I had done something I couldn’t have done in Sudan.”

Majok wants students to get energized about taking part in the process and he brought his message to campus just 34 days before voters would elect a new President. Following his lecture students had the opportunity to register to vote. Any student registering who lived in one of the College’s four residence halls would be able to vote at a community polling district located on campus.

Majok’s presentation was sponsored by OCC’s Politics Club. The organization is led by Associate Professor of Social Sciences Christopher Thuot. The Politics Club has played a critical role in informing the entire campus community about the choices in this election cycle.

On Wednesday October 19 the Politics Club hosted a faculty panel discussion on the 2016 election followed by a viewing party for the final Presidential debate. WSYR-TV, Newschannel 9 covered the event and did a live report on the story during its 11 p.m. news. You can watch their coverage here.

The panel discussion and debate watch party were the latest in a long line of events the Politics Club has organized throughout the year.

  • Student Jessica Rivera registers to vote. Seated are Politics Club members Alicia Willenborg and Jamie Stevens.
    Students register to vote outside the C-SPAN Bus.

    Hosted multiple voter registration drives including one in September when the C-SPAN Bus stopped on campus on its way to the first Presidential debate on Long Island.

  • Hosted Debate Watch Parties for all of the Presidential and Vice Presidential debates.
  • The College serves as a community polling location on campus which encompasses two election districts in the Town of Onondaga. The public service provides students an opportunity to interview voters and conduct exit polling. All students living on campus who registered here by October 14 were eligible to vote on campus. Election day transportation will be provided by a campus shuttle bus.
  • Members of OCC’s Politics Club have worked and will continue to work as election inspectors at polling places throughout Onondaga County.
  • As part of Hispanic Heritage Month, a panel was organized to discuss the Hispanic/Latino perspective on the upcoming election. Voter registration forms were also available at this event.
  • The Politics Club and Office of Student and Leadership Engagement teamed up on Constitution Day (Sept 16) to hand out copies of the pocket version of the Constitution to students.
  • During the spring 2016 semester the Politics Club hosted forums with each of the four Congressional candidates. The question-and-answer sessions helped decide whom to vote for in the primaries.
  • Onondaga County Democratic Board of Elections Commissioner Dustin Czerny spoke with students about the voting process.
  • Politics Club members worked with OCC adjunct faculty and community political expert Dick Woodworth when he brought his collection of political memorabilia to campus on Super Tuesday.

Professor Thuot is proud of what students in the Politics Club have accomplished. “All of the events that the Politics Club has hosted over the past several months are aimed at promoting civic engagement and making OCC students aware of what is at stake in the upcoming election,” he said. “The Club is delighted to see so many members of the OCC community engaged in discussions about the future of American democracy and is proud to be part of the college’s efforts to promote participation in the democratic process.”

Sign Up to Vote!

Student Tess Eller (left) registers to vote in the Gordon Student Center
Student Tess Eller (left) registers to vote in the Gordon Student Center

“Are you registered to vote?” “Do you want to vote in this year’s elections?” Those questions were repeated over to and over to passersby during a voter registration drive on campus Monday, February 22. Registration tables were set up in three buildings and staffed from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., giving students and members of the campus community plenty of time to stop by and register to vote.

Student Tess Eller registered to vote in the Gordon Student Center. She’s a Human Services major and 2010 graduate of Altmar-Parish-Williamstown. “I think it’s important to be part of choosing the next President, especially for younger people,” she said. “It’s our future. As you get older you realize how important it is to be a part of everything.”

A similar scene was repeated in the Atrium of the Whitney Applied Technology Center where students also signed up. Thaddeus Sitnik is an Adolesence Education major who graduated from Central Square in 2015. He felt a duty to register. “I want to be a productive member of society. If there are people out there risking their lives it’s important I do my part as a United States citizen, register and be aware of what is going on in the world.”

More than 200 students joined Eller and Sitnik as new registered voters. The event was sponsored and coordinated by the Syracuse Metro League of Women Voters and OCC’s Politics Club. If you are interested in registering to vote you can learn more at the Onondaga County Board of Elections’ website.

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OCC Students Go To Washington

OCC students interested in how government works spent a long weekend in our nation’s capital.

Members of the Politics Club joined students from the Experiencing American Politics Living Learning Community on a trip to Washington, D.C. In all, 28 students participated in the journey over Columbus Day weekend.

Students visited the Supreme Court, the National Archives, The Newseum, the Smithsonian’s American History Museum, the monuments along the National Mall and the Capitol. The students would like to thank the office of U.S. Senator Kirstin Gillibrand of New York which took the time to provide them with a tour of the Capitol.

The students were escorted to Washington by Political Science Assistant Professor Chris Thuot, along with Cathy Dotterer and Liz Goldschein from OCC’s Office of Residence Life.

Resized OCC Students in Capitol Rotunda
OCC Students pose for a picture in the Capitol rotunda. Behind them is a portrait titled “Signing of the Declaration of Independence.”