2:13 p.m., Nov. 5, 2008----About 2,000 University of Delaware students, faculty, staff and Newark residents visited the Multipurpose Rooms of the Trabant University Center on Tuesday night to watch the 2008 general election results on television and listen to expert faculty analyses of the trends and results.
Election Central, which was held from 8 p.m.-midnight, drew hundreds of students at a time to mingle with faculty and Newark residents while watching network television coverage of the results and enjoying refreshments as polls closed across the country.
“The event was incredibly well attended,” said Joseph Pika, James R. Soles Professor of Political Science and International Relations. “No one who stayed the entire evening could have left believing that UD students are politically apathetic. They arrived early and an impressive number stayed until after midnight to hear President-elect Barack Obama's victory speech. It was an opportunity for students to learn about citizenship at the same time they were having fun.”
Newark, Del., resident Earline Vann, her face painted to show her allegiance to Obama, attended the event with her two sons and one of their classmates from Newark High School.
“I thought that being on a college campus would be very educational,” Vann said. “I wanted to bring them to a place where both parties were represented.”
Jessica Dross, a sophomore finance major from Wilmington, Del., and Brandon Accardi, a junior communication major from Sewell, N.J., both supporters of the Republican presidential candidate, Sen. John McCain, said they had volunteered for the McCain campaign in Pennsylvania.
Accardi, who wore a handmade McCain shirt, said Americans had developed a bad taste from the George W. Bush administration. “Bush is not McCain, so with either presidential candidate there would be change,” he said.
Lucille Choi, an exchange student from the Philippines, said that she had helped turn out the vote for Obama in Philadelphia and also volunteered at a rally held on UD's Newark campus by Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Friday, Oct. 31. “I shook Biden's hand,” she said. “I was so star struck.”
Ralph Begleiter, Edward and Elizabeth Goodman Rosenberg Professor of Communication and Distinguished Journalist in Residence at UD, said many of the students shared the excitement of having voted for the first time in their lives and the opportunity to discuss the results with experts.
“We used faculty resources to talk briefly about aspects of the campaign that the students might not otherwise be aware of, and they watched the outcome unfold,” Begleiter said. “It was a project that brought together real life experience and the politics of the day. It was exciting to see all the students and live reporting by the Student Television Network and WVUD radio.”
David Wilson, assistant professor of political science, said that many people were initially dismissive of Obama, whom he described as a “transformative figure,” because of his lack of experience, but “political leadership is not about what the person has done, it's about what he or she can get people to do.” The election was more about emotional connectivity than about issues, Wilson said.
Danna Young, assistant professor of communication, who spoke about the role of satire and humor in the campaign, said that although political involvement has historically been rational, it also should be emotional and fun.
Election Central was sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences, the Office of Communications & Marketing, the Department of Political Science and International Relations and the Department of Communication.
Article by Julie Demgen, Diane Kukich and Martin Mbugua
Photos by Kathy Atkinson