Election Fever at Bryn Mawr

Bryn Mawr Students

By Emily Feenstra

By Emily Feenstra
Unigo Campus Rep at Bryn Mawr

- At this point, if a student isn’t registered, she must not be an American citizen.

Girls in sweatshirts, sweaters, sweats, and slacks are huddled on the floor, leaning against the walls, and hanging off the second story railing of the campus center.  It’s a Thursday night, and the event is neither an a cappella concert nor a J.K. Rowling signing; it’s the vice presidential debate.  And it doesn’t start for another thirty minutes.

The turnout at this most recent event is no exception to an overall pattern of campus-wide interest in the presidential elections.  The campus center was equally packed the week before for the presidential debate.  Students cheered and moaned in near-perfect unison at McCain’s Bush-esque chortles, Obama’s eloquence, Palin’s cutesy winks, and Biden’s bemused smiles.

One of the key organizers behind the campus center debate viewings, senior Annie Morse, has been working round the clock to make students realize how easy it is to get involved.  Morse has helped organize campus phone banking and canvassing, both for the Obama campaign.  She herself has been a supporter of the Obama campaign “since the beginning,” and is particularly passionate about the ticket’s stance on climate change and public service.  Junior Amanda Bowes, a fellow organizer, rallies behind Obama’s position on making education affordable.

It would be hard, however, to pinpoint any particular issue that has Bryn Mawr students up in arms.  As the debate audience revealed, students are overwhelmingly in support of the Obama campaign—all of it.  The senator was cheered and applauded endlessly, while reactions to McCain primarily revolved around his attempts at comedic relief and unwelcome interruptions.  From healthcare to energy to negotiating with parties the American government has categorized as “terrorist,” Obama was the hands-down favorite.

But you wouldn’t have to go to the debate screenings in the campus center to know students are excited.  Campus-wide emails go out every day from the Bryn Mawr Democrats and Smart Women Vote, as well as various other organizations, reminding students to register to vote and informing them how they can get involved.  Flyers have flooded the posting boards with information on volunteering for local politicians and registration deadlines.  Tables have been set up outside the dining halls for students to register in Pennsylvania, and if that isn’t convenient enough, additional flyers inform them what dorm rooms they can go to register at (nearly) any hour.  At this point, if a student isn’t registered, she must not be an American citizen.

The election buzz doesn’t stop outside the classroom, however.  It is all-encompassing.  Professors slip in election discussions whenever possible.  This week, the last twenty minutes of my three-hour long, upper-division Ethnic Politics class was spent discussing the debates.  Contrary to the usual pattern of attention spans, students were the most engaged for those last twenty minutes that they had been for the entire three hours.  As political science Professor Marc Ross explains, “The faculty is sky-high about this election.”  The Arabic lunch table is further proof of Ross’s observation.  At the end of this week’s lunch, the organizing professor prompted students to be prepared to discuss the elections for the following week (in Arabic, of course).  Under different circumstances, it would be easy to say the professors’ enthusiasm is contagious.  But in this case, it seems that everyone is already bouncing off the walls with anticipation, and the enthusiasm of the professors and the students just goes round robin, constantly feeding off of itself.

Americans nationwide are saying it: this is an election unlike any other.  Bryn Mawr sees it no differently.  The campus kicked off the year on a high, with guest speaker former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright urging students to get involved.  As we heed her advice, our enthusiasm has not waned, and November 4th can’t come soon enough.