With an election year upon us and the fervent debate over the most capable successor to President Bush steadily increasing over the past couple months, national news has become more and more engulfed in political advocacy. As would be expected, college campuses are hot spots for political questioning and discussion, and UR is no exception.

Multiple events this year, most notably the Political Science Undergraduate Council-sponsored Super Tuesday Party, have been dedicated to increasing student participation in the upcoming election and providing students with a setting to voice their opinions on political issues they are passionate about.

One of the most publicized events at UR thus far was the Super Tuesday Party in Wilson Commons’s Hirst Lounge. The event was geared toward giving students and faculty the opportunity to discuss politics while watching the results from the Tuesday primaries live.

“The election, as most of us know, is extremely important for our generation, and this was a great event that certainly allowed students to see the decisions for the ’08 primaries, while getting everyone excited for November’s election,” Co-President of R’World R’Vote and junior Scott Group said.

R’World R’Vote was one of many groups that sponsored the event, along with College Republicans, College Democrats, Community Learning Center, Grassroots, Students for Social Justice, Women’s Caucus and PSUGC. Each of these groups has worked toward increasing student political passion and participation on campus, with booths set up at the Super Tuesday party to educate those present about frontrunner candidates in each party.

These groups’ efforts are a possible reason why UR students are reported to be more interested in and attuned to political discussion and debate compared to a decade ago.

According to a recent survey done by the Higher Education Research Institute at University of California, Los Angeles, the number of freshmen who reported discussing politics with their classmates in the past year has almost doubled since 1997. The survey was based on the response of 272,036 freshmen at 365 colleges and universities around the country. Eight-hundred and fifty-one of the student participants were from UR.

While most of the groups are not dedicated to campaigning for one candidate, they do all work toward increasing participation and making sure that students have the tools to make educated decisions as voters.

“We believe that our role on campus is to be a facilitator between different kinds of student groups in order to promote our mission,” Group said.

R’World R’Vote, in particular, held a number of events throughout the fall semester, including a global warming orientation event, a Meliora Weekend political symposium on media and politics in the 2008 election and a discussion round table on race, gender, politics and religion. However, it is not the only group on campus that has made it its mission to promote political participation.

“This past fall semester, we had a meeting in which people came in representing various candidates [Republican and Democrat] and gave an outline of their environmental policies,” Co-President of Grassroots and sophomore Daniel Grenell said.

Grenell also mentioned his group’s dedication to promoting political participation as a way to increase concern about the environment.

“We now have a political action group which hopes to get involved in letter-writing campaigns and environmental registration,” he said.

In addition to Grassroots, groups like PSUGC are also setting up events that raise political awareness. One of the ways they do this is by encouraging political discussion of prominent political issues.

“As the 2008 presidential election approaches, we anticipate a high level of excitement from students,” Secretary of PSUGC and junior Asher Perzigian said.

“To help encourage positive conversations, the PSUGC has prepared a festive poster of each presidential candidate that will hang in Wilson Commons throughout this coming semester.”

This promotion, in the form of a Facebook template, features all of the presidential candidates and their platforms, the amount of money raised, their affiliations and a host of other information.

“We thought that this would present info in a relatable, funny way so that students would become engaged with the platforms of each candidate, as well as being kept up to date with primary results,” Vice President of PSUGC and junior Katie Wagner said.

But Facebook is not the only vehicle that PSUGC is using to increase political participation in the student population.

Women’s Caucus is another group that, while unable to endorse a certain candidate or party because of its categorization as an “awareness group,” is strongly pushing student participation in the upcoming election.

The Caucus is a Feminist Majority Foundation Affiliate and is currently promoting a “get out her vote” campaign, which explores the idea of a gender gap that exists in politics.

“The gap widens when typical ‘women’s issues’ are at stake and [because of the fact] that women are more supportive of those issues than men,” Women’s Caucus President and junior Julianne Nigro said.

“This campaign appeals to us because the majority of our members are women, and almost all of our members would vote with ‘women’s issues’ in mind.”

These groups and others, whose goals are directed more at promoting a single candidate – Students for Barack Obama, for example – will continue to encourage the type of student political participation that has made college campuses increasingly more important to political campaigns.

Hilfinger is a member of the class of 2010.



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