Four years ago on November 6, 2008, we watched history happen: The people of the United States of America elected the first black president. Many students across the nation celebrated this monumental day, uniting together with hopes for a better future. That year at Emory, the Multicultural Outreach and Resources at Emory (MORE, now a part of the Office of Multicultural Programs and Services), the Student Government Association and the moderators of Wonderful Wednesday collaborated to sponsor an Election Extravaganza. The Extravaganza provided a forum for 20 organizations across the University and the Atlanta community to supply information about the candidates’ positions, as well as offer a place for discussion and voter registration. Additionally, on election night a viewing party broadcasted the results live on McDonough Field.
We feel that this presidential election season has come and gone, but without the same on-campus presence as the last cycle. We attribute this in part to the fact that this year’s election may not have been as sensational as the one in 2008. However, we feel like this is an inadequate reason to not actively highlight America’s decision for our next president. There was much the University could have done in collaboration with politically-engaged student groups as well as faculty.
Regardless of the lack of official events in honor of the election, many political and nonpolitical student groups hosted their own programs. Politically affiliated groups such as Young Democrats at Emory and Emory College Republicans had tables set up by Asbury Circle “campaigning” for their prospective candidates. Emory Political Union, a nonpartisan group, set up a mock election to explore the issues each candidate endorsed. On the night of the election, the Black Students Alliance held a viewing party in Harland Cinema. We applaud these students for their proactive involvement and hope that they continue to be enthusiastic in the future.
In contrast to Emory’s lack of involvement, universities around the nation did not let the election go unnoticed. University news sources around the country covered the election as it unfolded. Davidson College hosted a viewing party for students to attend and support their preferred candidate. The University of Missouri-Columbia hosted a virtual watch party.
With the multitudes of social media available, we find it surprising that the University did not take advantage of avenues such as Facebook, Twitter or YouTube to engage the student body in the election process. As the popular and electoral votes piled in, individuals not only were able to view the process on CNN and other news channels, but were also inundated with updates from Election Apps, New York Times iPhone notifications and live feeds. The social media outlets allowed students to express their opinions and receive constant feedback from family members and friends.
However, along with the opportunities afforded to us with such advanced communication, we are also faced with the burden of sorting through the facts. If you are a Republican, it is easy to find websites and news sources that advocate for your preferred candidate. The same goes for Democrats. In an era where one can choose the facts they like best, we urge students to be aware of this and seek out balanced information. Not only will this help us to make informed decisions, it will also alert individuals to their political opponents’ thoughts and arguments. As members of a liberal arts institution, it is important to remain critical and constantly inquisitive.
We hope that in four years from now, the University will make more of an effort to engage students politically and that students will make sure seek out all the facts.
The above staff editorial represents the majority opinion of the Wheel‘s editorial board.