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Davidson Students Get Political

October 30, 2000
Contact: Bill Giduz 704/894-2244 or bigiduz@davidson.edu

by Alexandra Obregon '00

While the nation watched only three presidential debates, Davidson got to see a fourth, while witnessing a bit of the college's history in action. Eager to hold their own discussion about the important issues of the election, members of Davidson's College Republicans and Young Democrats went head-to-head in a formal debate, launching their platforms at each other from the balconies of the college's historical literary halls.
Student Debate
The Young Democrats campaign for their candidate from the balcony of Phi Hall.

The two panels, made up of seven students each, stood on the balconies of Eumenean and Philanthropic Halls on the evening of October 25 to promote their presidential candidates' views on education, foreign policy, health care and other issues. President Robert Vagt moderated the event and a crowd of more than 100 sat between the halls to hear--and cheer--the debaters.

It recalled the 19th century at Davidson, when members of the "Phi" and "Eu" literary societies regularly faced each other from the second-story balconies of their two historic buildings to debate the issues of the day.

"It was a good exchange of ideas," said Rick Bold '02, co-president of the College Republicans.

The democrats agreed. Mark Cody '01, co-president of the Young Democrats, commented, "Both sides clearly explained their views. We wanted to get people excited and educate them about things going on in the election, and to that end the debate was a great success."
Student Debate
A member of the College Republicans presents his party's platform fron the balcony of Eu Hall.

The debate was only one of many events to involve students in the spirit of Election 2000. The Davidsonian ran a "Politics" section, where student Republicans and Democrats sounded off about issues, and United Community Action brought "Rock the Vote" to campus to encourage students to register to vote or request absentee ballots online.

The political science department hosted public viewings of the presidential debates, followed by discussions led by faculty members. A number of students traveled to Wake Forest University to attend rallies surrounding the second presidential debate there.

Several professors incorporated politics into their courses. Shireen Campbell, Ann Fox, and Paul Miller of the English department designed this year's senior colloquium--a capstone course for English majors--as a study of politics and literature. Pat Sellers, assistant professor of political science, involved direct study of congressional elections in his "Congress" class by assigning each student in the class to follow one of the thirty-four U.S. Senate races.

"It's a way of putting a personal face on things we discuss in class," Sellers said, pointing out that election issues become more interesting for students when they can actually see the process at work.

And students have definitely taken an interest, turning out in large numbers for all campus political events. As Bold noted, "The turnout for the debate showed that political enthusiasm is a campus-wide phenomenon, and we're not as apathetic as people think we are."

Student Debate
College president Bobby Vagt (right) moderates the discussion, for which over 100 members of the Davidson College Community were in attendance.

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