Fairfield Now - Fall 2008
Getting Out the Vote
By Nina M. Riccio
|Biology major Carol Cirota '09, president of the College Democrats|
If the Fairfield campus reflects the mood across the country this fall, there may be a surge in political enthusiasm among students that hasn't been witnessed in over a decade. In March, a story in U.S. News & World Report reported that more than 5.7 million voters under the age of 30 participated in the primaries and caucuses, a 109 percent increase over the last presidential election.
"You can say whatever you want, but it doesn't mean anything if you don't vote," said Carol Cirota '09, president of the College Democrats, about her drive to increase voter turnout among her fellow Fairfield students in the next three months. "We're not promoting one candidate; we're promoting awareness."
Karla Carpenter '09, president of the College Republicans, said her group is doing the same.
"I feel tremendous excitement in my classes, and that's particularly because Barack Obama is running," said Dr. John Orman, professor of politics.
Indeed, the upcoming presidential election is real-world experience at its most basic level. Getting students to care about national and global issues like healthcare and illegal immigration and the war in Iraq when they have classes to attend and papers to write and sports to play is a challenge. That's why both the College Democrats and College Republicans are gearing up to get their supporters registered ... and involved.
Getting students to vote for a particular candidate is not the exclusive goal of either party association, both said. "We've helped in the Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) for Congress campaign, manned the polls, and got a group together to see John McCain when he was in Fairfield," said Carpenter. "But we've also done Relay for Life (to raise money for the American Cancer Society) and sent greeting cards to the troops. It's not just about politics."
Karla Carpenter '09, president of the College Republicans and a communication major
Maybe not, but Carpenter noted that students are concerned about the war, now well into its fifth year, and that is second only to their concerns about the economy. She conceded "it's a bad time for Republicans. Some students are Republican but are afraid to make their views known." Holding a forum or dialogue in the fall - something both clubs would like to do - may help all students feel more comfortable exploring and acknowledging their opinions.
There's no lack of passion for politics as far as the larger campus community goes, as evidenced by the standing-room only crowd at the Super Tuesday Women's Forum lunch at the kick-off to the primaries. Five of Fairfield's most dynamic and quick-witted professors from different fields spoke about what issues they felt would be important, and those attending wrapped up the hour by voting in their own mini-primary. (For the record, Barack Obama won handily, Hillary Clinton and John McCain tied, and Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee trailed with a vote or two each.) That same week, 70 political, civic, University, and church leaders came to campus for a breakfast meeting to discuss the way issues, values, and the media affect elections. "All Catholics have a responsibility to vote and engage in the political process," the Rev. Richard Ryscavage, S.J., director of the University's Center for Faith and Public Life, told the group. "You cannot separate private spirituality from public responsibility for the common good of society." Catholic social teaching, he added, dictates that Catholic voters should not vote solely in their self-interest.
In March, the Office of Residential Life sponsored Rap Sessions, a "townhall meeting," moderated by journalist and political analyst Bakari Kitwana, which attracted approximately 60 students for a dialogue with four hip-hop activists and community leaders. And in April, a student-written theatrical performance and a Remembrance Wall to honor those in military service focused attention on the humanitarian issues of the ongoing war.
Regardless of who one votes for, "if we could increase the percentage of voter turnout in this age group from its normal low of 27 percent to about 33 percent, that would be significant," said Dr. Orman.
Making new voter registration as easy as possible is key, and that's something both Carpenter and Cirota are eager to work on this fall.
For tickets, call the Regina A. Quick Center Box Office: (203) 254-4010 or visit www.fairfield.edu/quick. General Clark's talk is sponsored by the Carl & Dorothy Bennett Center for Judaic Studies and Bank of America.
Politics for the Public
This fall, the University plays host to a roster of political heavyweights, all speaking before the November elections.
Monday, Sept. 15 at 8 p.m. Historian and author Douglas Brinkley, professor of history at Rice University and Fellow in History at the James Baker III Institute for Public Policy, discusses presidents past and future.
Wednesday, Sept. 24 at 8 p.m. CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin discusses the inner sanctum of the Supreme Court - giving us a peek into the men and women whose judicial opinions shape our nation's destiny. Toobin's latest book, The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court, spent more than four months on the New York Times best-seller list.
Monday, Oct. 6 at 8 p.m. Actress and humanitarian Mia Farrow speaks on her efforts to raise global awareness on the crisis in Darfur by tying China's support of the Sudan with its hosting of the 2008 Olympics. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof once spoke of Farrow's role as a "game changer" for Darfur.
Thursday, Oct. 23 at 8 p.m. Retired General Wesley K. Clark gives his views on leadership in the 21st century. The four-star general, who led NATO forces in Kosovo, has been considered a possible running mate for Barack Obama.
Monday, Oct. 27 at 8 p.m. Liberal MSNBC news anchor Mika Brzezinski and conservative political affairs analyst Monica Crowley square off in a pre-election debate, sparring over the Democratic vs. Republican platforms.
Thursday, Oct. 30 at 7 p.m. Fareed Zakaria, editor of Newsweek International joins Fairfield University students in exploring "America's Future vs. Global Commitments."