November 07, 2012
Amid balloons, streamers, and a cake bearing the likenesses of both major presidential candidates, about 200 Knox College students, faculty, and staff gathered Tuesday night to talk politics while monitoring results of the 2012 presidential election.
The large turnout is "emblematic of a student body that is interested in public discourse and wants to be involved," said Knox faculty member Andrew Civettini, assistant professor of political science.
"That's part of the liberal arts mission," he added. "The skills we want our students to learn match well with the idea of being informed, active citizens in the world."
The viewing party took place in Taylor Student Lounge in Seymour Hall, where several television monitors were tuned into election coverage on different networks. Earlier in the day, Knox students in Civettini's Voting and Elections course conducted exit polling at Galesburg voting precincts (photo at right).
He and other Knox faculty members have been team-teaching the Elections 2012 course this fall, and some of the students in the class have written a blog about what they've learned. On Tuesday, faculty members from the course attended the viewing party and answered students' Election Night questions.
One student asked about the role of social media in this election. David Amor, instructor of journalism and anthropology-sociology, pointed out that many people in Taylor Lounge were, at that very moment, following election results on Twitter and Facebook. He also said that candidates increasingly are turning to social media as a fundraising tool.
Throughout the night, as results from each state were announced on television, students drew an outline of the state -- in red or blue, reflecting whether the outcome favored Republican Mitt Romney or Democrat Barack Obama -- on a piece of paper. Then, they taped the paper to a wall so others could see.
Certain results, such as when CBS declared that Obama had won Ohio, prompted cheers.
Ryan Frank, a member of Knox Conservatives and a junior from Monticello, Illinois, kept his own record of the results by with red- and blue-colored pencils and a map of the United States. He was coloring a state in red if its electoral votes went to Romney and in blue if its electoral votes went to Obama.
"It's just nice to get together with people and talk," he said early in the evening. "We might as well be patient and have some fun."
Jessica Brode, vice president of Knox Conservatives and a senior from Weston, Wisconsin, added: "I figure we're not going to find out for a while, so it's OK to relax. It's a much more active environment (here) than staying in your room and watching on TV."
Jordan Hallman, a sophomore from Denver, Colorado, "wanted to see what being around other people my age would be like on Election Night." She was particularly interested to find out whether Obama or Romney would win in Florida.
Philip Bennett, a Knox junior from Culver City, California, described himself as "definitely more liberal-leaning." He said he attended the viewing party in part because he is a student in the Elections 2012 class.
In addition, he said, "I've always been very tuned into domestic politics. I gravitate toward these very important events."
Civettini noted that Knox has been cited as one of the "10 Most Politically Active Schools" by the Unigo website.
That was illustrated in recent months, he said, by numerous activities at Knox: student-run debates at Old Main, on-campus voter registration drives, guest speakers who spoke about various aspects of politics, and several courses that included discussion and analysis of the elections.
"This was a whole campus engaged in the process, not just hinging on the outcome," he added. "The community we build at this college outweighs any of the differences between us."