The Political Atmosphere of Dartmouth

Dartmouth Students

By Kristin Kirlew-Bent

By Kristin Kirlew Bent
Unigo Campus Rep at Dartmouth 

As one can imagine Dartmouth College is a very politically aware campus. In 2007 the school hosted the Democratic primary debates, right before the nation’s first primary election was held in New Hampshire itself. Naturally enough, campus conversations are always charged with the issues that students are hoping the politicians of our nation will pay attention to. Especially now, with the presidential election being so close students have become more passionate than ever in representing the candidates they feel will make a difference for the country.

Many students stay updated on political issues through the College Democrat and College Republican organization, both of whom send informatory emails out to the student body and put posters up around campus. College Democrats and College Republicans exist as the main voices for most party members on campus.

Even though there are people with very strong believes on each side of the political spectrum, there remains no animosity on campus, but instead a friendly rivalry. Although fiercely dedicated to their candidate, students don’t t one another. Instead, there is an emphasis on educating the student body on national problems and their remedies. In the leading up to the election there have been countless fundraisers, lectures and celebrity appearances concerning the election. Two weeks ago the Obama Campaign center in nearby Lebanon, NH arranged for well- known actors Olivia Wilde (from House M.D.) and Kal Penn (from the Harold and Kumar Franchise) to make an appearance on campus and speak on behalf of Senator Obama.

After interviewing members of College Republicans and Democrats, I got a firsthand account of the democratic and republican perspectives of campaigning on campus. An anonymous member of the College Democrats said “there is a very active political scene at Dartmouth. Students are very interested in the decisions being made by our government, domestic issues and international events. Many students will not just believe what they hear in ads or speeches, but will instead research the policies and backgrounds of the candidates to ensure that they will be making informed decisions.”On the other hand Michael Randall, who serves as the Dartmouth College Republicans publicist, gave a more general describing the campus “The student body is excited for the upcoming election. Signs and stickers advertising both candidates are ubiquitous around campus. While feelings are strongly held by both Obama and McCain supporters, I think the atmosphere remains respectful, albeit competitive.”

While there is a cordial respect for opposing organization, each individual group wants to promote their own individual candidate. For example College Democrats send students to canvass dorms, encourage and help other students to register to vote, table/participate in visibility and phone banks. According to Randall, the Republicans have also been active. “The College Republicans have been canvassing every dorm to gauge support and help turn out votes, phone banking and logging thousands of calls for the campaign, and organizing sign waves and other events to increase visibility.  In addition to turning out voters, one of our main goals is visibility for both the McCain and Sununu campaigns -- we want our supporters to be enthusiastic about our candidates.”

Despite this spirit of activism, voter apathy can be a big problem both on Dartmouth’s campus and on other schools throughout the country.   However, as new generations of college students are coming of age the emphasis on voting has reached an all time high even extending into the mainstream media such as MTV’S Rock the Vote campaign. At Dartmouth, the student organization Vox clamantis has made an effort to get students registered and voting, going to far as  to set up registration booths all around campus. Even the town of Hanover (where Dartmouth is located) goes the extra mile to boost voter incentive by giving away merchandise and discounts for all students who registered and voted.

Several students have dedicated their time to making sure word gets out about voting by volunteering for campaign and political advocacy programs. As one intern for the Obama campaign commented on this effort to stimulate students, “Many groups on campus supporting either of the presidential tickets, both of which are aware of the extraordinary power of the youth vote in this election. As a result, many students are contributing their time on a daily or weekly basis to volunteer for the campaigns.” Believing that students within the swing state of New Hampshire have a great opportunity to bring about change, she claimed that “field organizers from the Obama campaign have been sent to each of the main colleges/universities in New Hampshire to work specifically with students to identify supporters on campus and get out the vote. It is an extremely exciting time to be at Dartmouth, especially since New Hampshire is one of the most highly contested states in this election.”

While Dartmouth students have distinct political dispositions, they tend to be concerned about similar issues:  the economic crisis, environmental policies and international relations worry many students. Often times the organizations try to hold separate events to focus on these issues, not only to bring in people already away of them, but also to educate those unfamiliar. One especially taxing issue on campus is the current economic crisis. With tuition worries are constantly in the back of their minds, students have shown an interest in learning more about the crisis, such as holding professor-lead discussions. Dartmouth College is definitely a place that one comes away from with a more sound and educated political perspective of the nation, as well as a respect for the ideals and decisions of others who don’t share the same values or pursuits as oneself.