Penn State’s Political Climate: It’s Heating Up


By Samantha Pearson
Unigo Intern at PSU
Oct. 23, 2008

Political activism at Penn State University this fall is at an all time record high. The election is a hot issue and there’s more than a chance that a liberal front is heading our way with Obama supporters in large numbers. Voter registration forms are flooding in and information about the election is ubiquitous; this campus shows no signs of cooling off.

When entering any classroom, dining commons, or dorm room at Penn State, you hear snippets of comments about the issues and the candidates. Due to voter registration campaigns, rallies and student held debates for individual candidates, and an Obama for America headquarters right on State College’s South Allen Street, it is impossible to remain uninformed about politics. Despite liberal amounts of Democrats at this university, conservative Republicans remain loyal to their presidential candidates.

College campuses are often shown to lean towards liberal or democratic candidates. This is often due to the very diverse college population and the fact that students are exposed to many different cultures and beliefs. Tolerance is taught in the classroom and students’ minds are often broadened, leading them to be in favor of a candidate with those ideals.

“I think many college campuses tend to be more liberal due to academic backgrounds,” said Gavin Keirans, president of University Park Undergraduate Association. “I also definitely see many people getting involved in this year’s election. Student groups have definitely reached out to students in efforts to get them involved, and the response has been great.”

Ben Klein, a mining engineering major, echoes Keirans’ thought.

“McCain is Bush’s follow-up, and we are voting against another Bush,” said the Democratic sophomore. “Everyone I know is registered to vote and intends to.”

Republican supporters often feel the heat of the Democratic population on campus and are often encouraged to join the ranks.

“There is definitely more of a liberal, Democratic population at this campus,” said Republican Alex Scitti, a freshman majoring in kinesiology. “I constantly see people in support of Obama, but I’m voting for McCain and Palin.”

Freshmen political science majors Leanne Lane and Christina DeSimone, both of whom are interning at Barack Obama’s Campaign for Change in Pennsylvania, believe that Penn State tends to support Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

“Students definitely support Obama more because of the issues. Obama wants to provide more government aid to college students and that is appealing to those who take out loans,” said Leanne. “Students are thinking about graduating and whether or not there will be a job for them when they leave school. Student debt is piling up and some students wonder whether or not their education will matter in this financial crisis.”

“Just get out there and vote,” commented DeSimone.

Democrat supporters and student associations like the College Democrats and Students for Barack Obama hope that students go out and vote. These student organizations have hosted many successful events in trying to accomplish their goal.
“There have definitely been a large variety of events in honor of Obama. We are hoping that the Grateful Dead concert will bring out large numbers of supporters to the Bryce Jordan Center and we know a couple of people who will be going to Oproma at Atherton,” said DeSimone.

Pennsylvania is a swing state this year so it is not surprise that Penn State has hosted many influential speakers. Candidate Barack Obama spoke to students at University Park on March 30, 2008, and more recently actor Kal Penn of movies “Van Wilder” and “Harold and Kumar” came to help students register to vote. On September 30, an “Obama Huddle” was held at the Obama headquarters where Penn State quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno and players Daryll Clark, Derrick Williams and Deon Butler spoke. Additional events held in support of Barack Obama and Joe Biden was the formal “Oproma” on October 10 and the Grateful Dead concert on October 13. 

“As far as support goes, people do care. I think the election is leaning towards Obama, but McCain supporters are starting to make themselves known,” said DeSimone.

Republicans in support of John McCain are also a part of campus with organizations such as the College Republicans and Students for John McCain. These organizations support their candidates through meetings held every Tuesday night in which they debate issues and policies.  On September 20, the “Straight Talk” RV was even parked at Beaver Stadium, offering information to all who went to the Penn State vs. Illinois football game.

“Overall, the campus is more liberal due to age and common trends,” said Republican Kristina Spinello, a junior in marketing. “A lot of the usual issues, such as abortion and other social policies, are being overshadowed by our economic state and foreign policy. I intend to vote for McCain and Palin.”

Penn State is definitely a diverse campus and people are encouraged to believe in and campaign for whatever cause or candidate they please. Penn State keeps its open door policy for all candidates and invites any other political groups to get involved. We are informed. We are active. We are… Penn State!

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