Widener Students Step into the Political Arena with Very Own Super PAC
What do Dr. Wes Leckrone of Widener’s political science faculty and media personality Stephen Colbert have in common?
Aside from the easy answer of quick wit and the ability to captivate an audience, they both started a Super PAC as somewhat of an educational experiment.
Colbert formed "Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow" in 2011 to shed light on the impact of the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission Supreme Court decision, which loosened campaign finance rules by allowing corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money in political advertising to elect or defeat candidates for office.
Leckrone initiated his own Super PAC, "College Students Concerned by College Costs (CSC3)," during the fall 2012 semester with help from freshmen honors students enrolled in his introductory American Government course. The students came to the consensus to focus their Super PAC on the nonpartisan issue of higher education costs. They then spent the semester researching the issue and developing content for their Super PAC's website: http://knowyourcollegecosts.org/ and Twitter feed @CSC_Cubed.
"I was interested in using this Super PAC as a way to help the students understand the election process in a more in-depth and experiential way," said Leckrone. According to one CSC3 founder, Alfred Hew, a mechanical engineering major, Leckrone's mission was realized.
"This project certainly changed the way I viewed commercials during the 2012 election season," said Hew. "I realized that many ads come from Super PACs, and these Super PACs can do or say pretty much whatever they want because they aren't directly affiliated with a candidate's campaign. I don't think many viewers realize which ads are from Super PACs or what a Super PAC even is."
Leckrone said after a semester of being exposed to Super PAC propaganda in the height of a presidential election, his students came to the conclusion that to have influence in the political arena, you need money. "Here we are, a group of 14 college students and one professor, tweeting regularly and working hard to build a website, yet we have very little influence because we have no money," he said.
Another founding member of CSC3, Tori Remondelli, a mechanical engineering major, hopes to change that in the future. "We discussed some ideas for fundraising, and we hope to start this process either in a future class or work with Dr. Leckrone's other classes to raise money to help this Super PAC grow," he said. "While this Super PAC is still in its early stages, we eventually hope that it can grow to include students from other colleges so that we can truly influence legislators who make decisions that affect the price of a college education."
Leckrone is continuing to use this research conducted by C3C3 founding members this semester in a new course he is teaching, which is part a collaboration with other professors and students in education and business in support of a project for the provost for The New American Colleges & Universities.
"Widener will be focusing on the issue of college costs," Leckrone said. "We will answer questions about why the cost is increasing, picking up where the students left off in the fall."
Leckrone's class of 10 students will specifically work on publicizing the Super PAC through social media by starting a public education campaign. At the end of the semester students will present their findings to local legislators.
Dean Fred Akl
Professor Fred A. Akl, dean of the School of Engineering, discusses his work with NASA during the STS-63 and STS-71 space shuttle missions.
At the Health Annex
Lynn Freda, a nurse and graduate student in Widener's Family Nurse Practitioner master's program, talks about her experiences working with Dr. Shirlee Drayton-Brooks, associate professor at the School of Nursing.
Dr. Marina Barnett
Dr. Marina Barnett, associate professor in the Center for Social Work Education, talks about the leadership qualities she sees in her students. Also, Dr. Barnett gives an amazing Widener rallying cry. Check it out!
Catherine Rawlings '14
Catherine Rawlings, a junior from West Chester, Pa., talks about why she participates in the AmeriCorps Community Fellows program at Widener.
Dr. Jeannette Wyatt
Assistant Professor Jenny Wyatt discusses the work and impact of the Widener Center for Violence Prevention.
Dr. Nadine McHenry
Associate Professor Nadine McHenry talks about the importance of exposing teacher candidates to schoolchildren from different contexts.