Pitzer on Politico Patrol
By Janet Alexander
Unigo Campus Representative at Pitzer
October 23, 2008
At Pitzer college the greatest galvanizer of students is not the big game or a legendary campus party, but rather the nation’s biggest political spectacle — the presidential election. No topic aggravates or invigorates the average Pitzer student like politics. (In fact, Political Studies is one of the college’s most popular majors.) Students throughout the campus are excited to exercise their right to vote in a presidential election for the first time and feel further empowered because this election marks a critical turning point for the nation.
Pitzer students want to care about politics but do not trust the traditional ways in which information about the election gets disseminated in the mainstream media. “We are painfully aware of the structural limitations placed on the candidates, as well as the disingenuousness of the media’s treatment of the campaign,” explained sophomore Paul Water-Smith. Presidential debate watching parties and activist group membership are the two primary ways through which Pitzer students sustain the campus’s political atmosphere.
A few weeks before the election, as per usual, Pitzer students decided to protest Karl Rove’s speaking engagement at nearby Claremont McKenna College by forming the Karl Rove Welcoming Committee. Student-run meetings organized and executed various components of the protest, including garnering professors’ participation, writing a formal press release statement to the local media, and creating a website, HelloKarl.tumblr.com. Additionally, students intended to put Karl Rove under an official citizen’s arrest. On September 15th Rove’s arrival was met by over one hundred student demonstrators, with megaphones, didgeridoos, and drums in hand. Rove was kept effectively captive by protestors for over an hour after he finished, until he finally made a panicked rush for his car through a discrete back exit. Seizing the opportunity to confront the man who they considered a war criminal, three Pitzer students quickly followed after Rove, but were halted by mace. Since Mr. Rove’s visit, the infamous Welcoming Committee has evolved into a general political activism group, “that acts as a facilitation for individuals and small groups-not a central planning organization,” said sophomore Asa Kamer. Students can drop in for weekly protest workshops, and learn the art of civil disobedience, including how to treat mace injuries.
Pitzer students avoid the traditional avenues that usually facilitate political discussion and activism; there is no Democrats or Republicans clubs on Pitzer’s campus (though the latter would be hard pressed to find enough members). Instead, the students’ political consciousnesses converge whenever a particularly offensive, provocative, or affective issue arises. As sophomore Talyor Tulchin explained, Pitzer further sets itself apart from its sister colleges, “no other campus’s students have organized themselves to make change the way Pitzer students do.” Pitzer students are well researched, up-to-date, and consequently, quick to impart their political wisdom on anyone who seems troublingly “misinformed,” or just willing to listen. Not a week goes by without a student sending out a politically related email, hoping to spread political awareness and ignite political fervor among the student body. Most recently, Students for Sensible Drug Policy called attention toward the Nonviolent Offender Rehabilitation Act of 2008, hoping to lower the possession of an ounce of marijuana or less from a misdemeanor to an infraction. Students recognize a cause for concern and activism, and take it upon themselves to accumulate resources and mount a coordinated, oppositional effort.
Pitzer students look forward to the day their political fervor, convictions, and reformation efforts expand out from the microcosm of their campus and out into a national political forum. Making a thought provoking impact on one’s peer and the community at large is a primary goal of the average Pitzer student, and at no other time is that more evident than during election season.