The Political Atmosphere on Campus at Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech Students

By Danielle Polo
By Danielle Polo
Unigo Campus Rep at Virginia Tech
Oct. 8, 2008

No matter who you are or where you spend your time on campus, it’s hard not to realize there is an election going on this year. With the present state of our nation, students at Virginia Tech, many of whom are first-time voters, are paying closer attention to everything political. Whether it’s trying to decide whom to vote for, learning about the different stances on issues, discussing the general character of a candidate or any other reason, this election is impacting the lives of students everywhere.

Whether students were or were not politically active or aware before this election has little to do with whether they are noticing and paying attention to this one. Different organizations, such as the College Republicans, Young Democrats and the Student Government Association (SGA), are making sure of it by setting up booths on campus urging students to register to vote, getting them to hear different political issues and trying to raise awareness of the importance of this election and the impact young voters could have on it.

This election is especially relevant to students in terms of voter registration. The need for students to register within this county or vote absentee has been pushed hard — you can’t walk onto campus without being asked several times about the status of your voter registration, and seeing someone walking around with those little clipboards is a dead giveaway for what’s coming.

Another obvious but exciting way that students are being encouraged to vote was the presence of the “Rock the Vote” tour bus on the Virginia Tech campus on Sept. 14 — the first stop on its month-long tour. Parked in front of Newman Library, the bus was in a prime spot to attract students with music and shouts urging people to register to vote. While “Rock the Vote” is non-partisan, the College Republican and Young Democrats co-sponsored the event, and different students associated with the two candidates and their student groups on campus were there to offer information on both sides. The “Rock the Vote” tour bus was an effective way of adding excitement to the upcoming election and get students better informed of registration issues and student voting rights.

Another exciting political event at Virginia Tech, the Young Democrat’s Rally for Change, took place on Sept. 29, and was put on to generate support for candidate Barack Obama. The enthusiastic crowd that attended the event on campus at the Haymarket Theater was treated to different performance acts. They included HopeHop, a local Blacksburg band with a smooth, hip-hop influenced sound and Virginia Tech’s Enlightened Gospel Choir. Most talked about, however, was Bacar Bey, who opened the event by performing slam poetry, a rhythmic form of poetry read aloud. His performance included two poems heavily influenced by Obama’s messages and were met with a standing ovation from the crowd. Overall, the event was able to get students together to enjoy passionate performances and support their candidate of choice.

Senior Carla Rood, a member of the College Republicans, said that the organization met weekly for a number of reasons.

“We talk about new grassroots efforts that the campaign needs help with [for local, state, and federal levels],” she said. “We discuss current events, and often discuss the downfalls to the Democratic Party and its candidates.” Rood has even spent time going door-to-door in an effort to get out the group’s messages. She is an example of how students, besides attending major events, are also simply taking time with their friends or organizations to discuss the election and put their opinions out there.

Students can also voice their opinions via the college newspaper, The Collegiate Times, which has been a spot for many political opinion articles, as well as blogs on its online version.

In terms of informing students about the election, senior Editor in Chief David Grant said he hoped students will get a more student-centered view of the candidates.

“We hope to find some interesting angles on the candidates that tend to not be as college-related per say, but just insightful and interesting nonetheless,” he said. To cover the election, the newspaper plans to send as many people out into the Commonwealth as they can, going to election night parties for both the senate and presidential races.

Though happening off campus, the presidential and vice presidential debates are on students’ mind as well. Some students are getting together with their friends to watch, while others are catching them on their own. Those who do not watch the debates live can still get their information the next day by watching videos online or reading news stories and blogs that have election coverage. Planet Blacksburg, an online news source for students at Virginia Tech, featured a video by contributor Ryan Call asking students their plans for the presidential debate that occurred on the ever-important Friday night.

Virginia Tech is, for the most part, not considered politically active during non-election years, so the burst of political activity this semester — getting students excited about registering and voting, putting on events for each candidate, and the increase of discussion about the issues at stake come Election Day — speaks volumes about the importance of this year’s presidential race. Being on such a diverse and large campus with so much going on, students can become as informed as they want to be. With registration over, and with it the end of the daily harassment about the importance of voting this year, it is up to each student to stay politically informed and active, and doing so should not be a problem here on campus.