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In a few hours, the election campaign that has captivated the American news media for the past two years will come to an end. This dynamic campaign has made the American political process a conversation topic in living rooms around the country, as well as in many a dorm room at the Institute. The campus has shown more political awareness in the past six months than I’ve seen in my previous two years at MIT. Whether or not you’re happy with the election results tonight, here’s why our campus should continue to be engaged by public policy.

The next president, as well as Congress, will continue to rely on MIT’s expertise to confront many critical issues over the next four years. MIT faculty and administrators have been regularly testifying in Washington on issues such as economic instability, global warming, and healthcare. Our elected politicians are making policy decisions based, in part, on information from the same people who teach our classes.

The student body has begun to realize the influence that MIT’s innovative and unbiased research carries in Washington. However, what many students have yet to understand is that our professors are testifying not simply because they are experts in high demand — they are also testifying because they believe themselves that their expertise should improve public policy decisions.

All members of the MIT community feel the impact of public policy in their academic and professional lives. American policy affects research funding, regulatory barriers, and ethical decisions. It is in our best interests, as members of the academic community, to ensure that policy decisions are grounded in the best evidence available.

MIT as an institution has demonstrated countless times throughout its history a commitment to grounding policy decisions in reliable research. As students who may one day also be experts in our chosen fields of study, we must maintain an understanding of critical policy issues so that we can, if called upon, use our expertise to improve policies that affect us all.

Elizabeth Leshen ’10 is a member of the Forum on American Progress.