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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Monday, June 24, 2024

Community comes together in campus center

An eager crowd in Hotung erupted into an explosion of joyous screams and chants after counting down the seconds until the closing of West Coast polls and the official CNN projection that Sen. Barack Obama would be the 44th president of the United States.

Organized chants of "yes we did," "Obama" and "U.S.A." resounded through the room as many continued to celebrate and shed tears of joy while waiting for Obama's victory speech in Chicago, Ill.

The night started much earlier than that, however, when students started pouring into the campus center around 7:30 for the Experimental College's Election Night Extravaganza, filling Hotung and the upstairs lounge of the campus center. Many brought their own computers to follow the action online, and some even brought homework as they camped out for the long haul.

Though JumboCast, which broadcasted coverage adjacent to the major news networks' displays, followed the contest with its own reporting and interviews, CNN's commentary captured most of the attendees' attention.

As swing states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida were called for Obama, students erupted in cheers.

University President Lawrence Bacow left a friend's election party early to make an appearance at the event. He made some brief comments to the crowd and was received by thunderous applause.

In reference to Question 2 on the Massachusetts ballot, which called for the decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana, Bacow said, "Whatever the law is, we abide by it." Voters yesterday supported decriminalization.

As the night went on, Masters of Ceremonies Stephanie Brown, a senior, and sophomores Brian Agler, Chas Morrison and Samuel Wallis commented on the results, often receiving news from audience members watching the returns online.

Early on, Brown took informal polls, asking how many people lived in swing states, how many volunteered for one of the campaigns and how many actually voted.

Brown and the other MCs occasionally asked members of the audience for their opinion on the election and the issues.

The night began with the screening of a documentary created by an ExCollege class. It struck a lighter note, with highlights of the presidential race interspersed with a number of clips of funnier campaign moments.

Students from "The Institute," a TUTV program, showed two comedic videos, and there was also another ExCollege documentary recapping the intense primary battle, the bitter campaign attacks and various other memorable moments.

As the first results started rolling in, a panel of various political minds, some of them members of the Tufts community, discussed major themes of the election and the meaning of the numbers.

The panel also addressed negative campaigning.

"Usually, you can tell who's behind by who has the more negative campaign," Dean of Undergraduate Education James Glaser said. "When the McCain campaign really started to dish it out …. [the Obama campaign] didn't go as low as they could have gone."

On the issue of the historical significance of Obama's presumptive election, Glaser, also a political science professor, said it compared to other events he thought he would never experience in his lifetime, such as the fall of the Berlin Wall and the breakup of the Soviet Union.

Politically oriented student groups set up tables on the lower floor of the campus center, providing free handouts to students and opportunities for attendees to share their views.

Tufts Votes Co-Chairs Christina Kay, a sophomore, and Emily Hellman, a junior, gave out candy and "I Voted" stickers.

At another table sponsored by VOX, Tufts' reproductive rights and sexual health awareness group, members of the community had the opportunity to write out their suggestions for what the president-elect should accomplish while in office.

Senior Jason Safer placed a note encouraging the next president to fund stem cell research. Freshman Richard Ammerman proposed, somewhat less seriously, that the winner grow a beard.

"It's just been a really long time since an elected president had a beard. There's just a stigma against beards [in the White House]," he said.

Meanwhile, WMFO broadcasted live from the campus center's second floor, drawing on commentary from its DJs, members of the community and local residents.

The station's coverage focused on local ballot issues in addition to the national race, according to freshman and DJ Garrett Gilmore, who staffed a table giving away and selling various WMFO merchandise.

"It's fabulous seeing so many students here, engaged, excited about what's going on," Bacow told the Daily. "Elections matter. I'm delighted to see that this generation understands that. I hope they will remember elections matter … two years from now."

Although Bacow said he does not envy Obama's job, he thought the way the candidate has been able to bring people together in his campaign bodes well for his capacity to govern.

"This probably won't surprise you, but I actually think leadership matters," he said. "What I'm most encouraged by in this election is the fact I'm hopeful that this election signals a change in the nature of the level of political discourse that we will see."

Dean of Student Affairs Bruce Reitman also attended the event. "I'm excited," he said. "This is the best use of the campus center we've ever had in its history."

"It's been incredible, it's been great," said Tufts Students for Barack Obama co-leader Ethan Hochheiser, a junior, who returned to campus shortly before 9 p.m. after campaigning over the weekend in New Hampshire. He credited his co-leaders and other student volunteers for their efforts in the Granite State, which Obama won.

Early in the night, Tufts Republicans President Mike Hawley, a sophomore, expressed cautious optimism while talking to the Daily over the shouts of the overwhelmingly Democratic-leaning crowd.

"This is the environment I go to school in every day," he said. "[The Republicans are] going to try to make up in enthusiasm what we lack in numbers."

At the end of the night, though, freshman Megan Luce, a McCain supporter, said that she was happy to have closure.

"It's been too long," Luce said of the election. "I'll be kind of glad when it's over, just all the campaigning. It's too drawn out, but it is exciting."

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