WORDS | Ben McCarthy
From the very first time you step foot in just about any university around the country, students’ exhibits of countless political and religious groups around campus are ubiquitous. From Labor and Liberal clubs, to Christian to Muslim and atheist groups, educational institutions provide a fantastic outlet for students to express opinions and recognise fellow students’ preferences. However, as we see during our daily newspaper pondering, politics and religion can act as catalysts in often fiery debates around, not only the country, but also the world. In keeping with the black and white theme of this edition of Grapeshot, I have explored the myriad of political and religious groups around campus, and to uncover whether or not such fiery debate exists.
Now, unless you live under a rock, (or alternatively skip every lecture you can possibly afford) then you are bound to see either posters or people advertising various political groups and clubs that have been founded with Macquarie’s campus. From Labor, to Liberal, to Greens, and yes, probably even to the much revered ‘Sex Party,’ you can be assured that a student group probably exists. No matter what your political preference, it is encouraging to see that the very systems that run our country have been able to manifest themselves within an educational setting. Combine this proactive mindset with the many political units on offer at Macquarie and you’ve got yourself a university full of future game-changers. In order to unearth the answers to some of my political queries, I consulted good friend and former Young Labor member, Tim Grellman.
‘It’s great to be a part of a political group,’ Tim said. ‘It allows you to meet new people that not only have the same views, but differing views as well. Being in a university where people are given the decision to freely choose their political party, provides a different perspective, one that you may not have been privy to. Definitely enlightening.’
When asked about any possible animosity between political groups on campus, Tim was, to my surprise, strikingly full of praise. “In my personal experience, everyone gets on reasonably well. Many of my friends are in political groups that oppose my views, but we are respectful of each other’s preferences, and I think it’s good to see that.” While acknowledging the “odd nutter,” as Tim so eloquently put, it did surprise me to not detect any blatant bitterness towards opposition parties.
Of course it wouldn’t be too sporting of me if I didn’t include the views of those affiliated with the Liberal party. However opposed in political terms, one Young Liberal member who wishes to remain nameless was equally as diplomatic in his response. “Things are very relaxed at Macquarie University. No one takes themselves too seriously.
I am actually good mates with the current Young Labor president. It provides opportunities for networking as we are affiliates with like-minded groups at other universities.” Perhaps our current Federal and State politicians could learn a thing or two from these groups at Macquarie.
Similar to politics, religion is also a hot spot for debate around campus. “It is good being a part of a religious group on campus,” Christian Union (CU) member Alex Bennett says to me when discussing religion on campus. “It definitely makes you think deeper about your faith and gives you a place to express that faith.” This ‘space’ provided by university can’t be missed as you journey through campus. When asked about the relationships between other faiths on campus, Alex contently says that, “there’s a definite mutual respect between faiths on campus. I have shared spaces with people following other faiths and it seems as though there is a mutual understanding between us all.” Through learning of this willingness by other faiths to share space and communicate openly with other students, it became increasingly apparent to me that there is an unbreakable bond between the groups and their respective members. It is perhaps the mutual appreciation that fellow students and classmates have taken the time out to join these groups and celebrate the decisions in life that make them unique. Yet these student groups in an educational setting provide a rather peaceful and respectful exchange of political and religious ideas for other students to learn about. We’re all in this together!