By: Michael Cinnamon  | 

Election ‘08 Causes Stir Among Students; YU Students Find A Cause To Believe In (Vol. 74, Issue 2)

With the election approaching, students at YU are getting ready reaching the end of a months-long process. At the end of last year’s spring semester, students used computer stations outside Strenger Hall for registration, and many are excited to vote. The season has culminated in numerous events dedicated to the election which have been held over the past few weeks, charging the atmosphere at YU with political energy.

Many students know that Yeshiva University is anomalous in that it is one of the few top universities whose undergraduate student body has a Republican majority. The Commentator’s Student Pulse survey showed that over 68 per cent of students support John McCain and Sarah Palin, with only 16 per cent declaring their support for Barack Obama and Joe Biden. Similarly, the College Republicans have been considerably more active on the Wilf campus than have the College Democrats.

Still, this election season has seen a flurry of activity from students of both parties on campus, with various political activities and events.

This past week alone, hundreds of students participated in three events held at the Wilf campus meant to further inform students about the candidates and the election. About 50 students came to hear a speech by a representative of the Zionist Organization of America on Tuesday, October 28; over 100 students from the Wilf and Beren campuses attended the Grand Electoral Debate on Wednesday, October 29; and the Rock the Vote Concert/Café Night on Thursday, October 31 attracted more than 200 students from both campuses.

Dr. Daniel Mandel of the ZOA spoke to students about how Israel will be affected by the coming election, He discussed in depth the views of each candidate with regard to Israel and the Middle East, and went through each candidate’s principle Middle East advisors and discussed their views as well, enriching the students’ perception of an issue universally felt to be important on both campuses.

The Rock the Vote Concert/Café Night featured performances by Gavriel Kahane and Reality Addiction, along with refreshments and tables full of election paraphernalia.

While the Café Night did not have political overtones, but rather simply encouraged students to vote, the Grand Electoral Debate was meant to raise student awareness of the particular issues on which the 2008 election hinges. Students were also provided with more information on the specifics of the Democratic and Republican candidates’s views. Sponsored by the J. Dunner Political Science Society, as well as the College Democrats, College Republicans, and various student organizations, the debate was an opportunity for the few undecided students left at YU to choose a candidate and to further inform the students who had already decided on a candidate about each candidate's views. 

The Democratic Party ticket was represented by Congressman Elliot Engel (D-NY 17th District), and the Republican Party ticket by Andrew C. Hruska, a litigator at King & Spalding, The two debaters responded to questions about Bush foreign policy, the financial crisis, education, tax policy, and Sarah Palin. 

While the Republican cheering section was larger than that of the Democrats, both sides were well-represented in the audience. There were McCain/Palin signs in abundance, as well as many McCain/Palin and Obama/Biden buttons, with some students sporting t-shirts supporting their candidates.

Additionally, seven YU College Republicans boarded buses on Sunday to Pennsylvania to volunteer for the McCain/Palin campaign. According to Ben Jacobson (YC ‘09), president of YU College Republicans, these student volunteers went door-to-door and manned phone banks. 

Finally, students will gather in Daffy Square in Midtown Manhattan on Tuesday night to watch the election itself.

Students have felt the political energy at YU this semester. David Isser (YC '09) believes that this is a good thing. “There are definitely strong coalitions of students that support the Obama and McCain campaigns,” he said. “We are in an academic setting and it’s important that students know both politicians, both plans, and can get a wider picture before voting. I don’t see why it could possibly be bad.”

Some students, though, lament the lack of true commitment on the part of students. Ben Jacobson pointed out that students were very willing to come to convenient events where free food was offered. However, when the call went out to mobilize and travel to Pennsylvania, the response was lukewarm. 

Still, the efforts on the part of student leaders and student organizations have clearly led to increased political awareness and activism at YU, and hopes are high that YU students will yote in strong numbers on Tuesday. Now, we wait.