Upcoming Election Highlights Tulane Dedication and Disinterest
By Caitlin Conley
Unigo Campus Rep at Tulane
If residence hall windows are any indication, the upcoming presidential election is drawing considerable interest at Tulane University. Campaign signs, most supporting Democratic candidate Barack Obama, dot the windows of Tulane's dormitories.
Student body president Margaret Walker said this year she's seen many more campaign stickers on windows, cars and backpacks.
“And it's not just Obama-Biden stickers,” she said, “but also stickers for local candidates,” indicating that the excitement for the upcoming national election has spilled over to local politics.
The large number of Obama stickers is unsurprising.
“Tulane is very liberal, including the faculty,” Walker said.
The College Republicans are well aware of Tulane's outlook.
“Tulane is one of the most liberal universities in the South,” said College Republicans president Cody Dickerson. “That's why we get together, we want our voice heard.”
The College Republicans said that although some students were not interested in listening to opposing viewpoints a lively political debate was always easy enough to find.
Dickerson said that the College Republicans were working hard to increase support for Republican presidential candidate John McCain and local Republican candidates. They spend Saturday mornings walking New Orleans’ neighborhoods urging residents to vote Republican.
The College Republicans are trying hard to galvanize more students to campaign and become politically involved. They have worked with the College Democrats to register Tulane students to vote and co-sponsored debate watching parties and discussions with Tulane’s Political Science Department.
“This election will have long term consequences,” Dickerson said. “But we want people to look past the presidential race because we can have such a direct impact on local politics.”
College Democrats president Ashley Coleman said that she's seen substantial interest in the presidential election.
“Usually we have lots of kids show up for the first meeting and then drift away,” Coleman said. “This year that number's been pretty insignificant.”
She attributes this to both the presidential election and Obama's ability to energize young voters.
“Obama draws in students who are not necessarily liberal and who may never have been interested in politics before,” Coleman said.
When Obama visited Tulane last year students lined up hours before he was scheduled to speak and some were forced to listen to Obama's speech from outside Fogelman Arena. To date the College Democrats have handed out stickers, banners and more than 200 posters. They are working with a newly opened Obama campaign office a few blocks from campus to convince Obama supporters to volunteer for the campaign.
The College Democrats have gone door to door in residence halls looking for unregistered students and are also planning a canvassing trip to Tallahassee, Florida where, as past elections have proven, electoral votes are always up for grabs.
But for every student campaigning and getting out the vote there are many others who are less enthusiastic. On a campus with more than 6,000 undergraduates only a few hundred are members of the College Democrats or College Republicans. Dickerson and Coleman both said that getting Tulane students interested and involved is a major issue.
“The biggest thing,” Dickerson said, “is convincing people that it's worthwhile for them and their community to campaign and be involved.”
Meanwhile, Coleman said the College Democrats have devoted a lot of time to increasing their visibility on campus and encouraging students to get involved.
With so many other demands and commitments many Tulane students find it hard to get involved. Walker rejected the notion that Tulane students are apathetic.
“Most Tulane students are pretty opinionated,” she said, but this does not always translate into political activism.
Motivated students, however, will always find like-minded peers amongst the College Democrats and the College Republicans. Whether prospective Tulane students choose to be part of the silent majority or the involved minority is up to them.