October 3, 2008

Biden and Palin Face Off: North Campus rife with politics

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Residents of High Rise 5 and Jameson Hall were amongst the hundreds of students foregoing “Thirsty Thursday” festivities to watch the vice-presidential debate between Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska and Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) About 70 students gathered around the big screen television in the Jameson Hall sky lounge, ranging from the most obstinate politickers of the class of 2012 to those simply wishing to learn more about the presidential election.
The overall support of the room appeared to lean towards Biden. Palin’s appeals to “Joe Sixpack” and “Sally Soccer-Mom” were met with jeers and derision, while Biden captured a good amount of the High Rise residents’ respectful attention.
Moments of particular rancor amongst the students occurred in the first few minutes of the debate, as Palin appeared to be dodging questions to emphasize her record on energy policy. Towards the tail end of the debate, students began to let out audible groans at Palin’s continuous mentioning of John McCain’s “maverick” ways.
“Palin is really just embarrassing herself with this debate,” said Nick Fuga ’12, a Jameson resident. “But Biden could be attacked on certain comments he’s making. There’s already a preconceived notion that Palin will fail.”
The debate-watching party was hosted by Faculty in Residence Prof. Brisa Teutli, romance studies, and Prof. Iago Gocheleishvili, near eastern studies, who host Wii and cupcake parties every Thursday for Jameson and High Rise 5 freshmen. While many remained in the lounge for the duration of the debate, others moved in and out of the Faculty in Residence’s room, which featured cupcakes, soda and a smaller TV broadcasting the debate.
“The presidential elections in the United States affect not just one country, but countries around the world,” said Gocheleishvili, who hails from the Republic of Georgia. “Everybody in my country right now is watching the debates.”
Teutli reiterated the value of the Thursday “study break sessions” with the students.
“They come first for the cupcakes, but stay for the talks,” said Teutli. “It gives them an opportunity to interact with each other, to meet new people, to talk about things.”
The debate was also attended by Prof. Andrew Chignell, philosophy, a faculty fellow in the high rises.
“I got the feeling that there was a definite slant among people here,” said Chignell, referring to the abundant Palin-punchers in the crowd.
However, the large group format of the viewing was helpful to many students, and different opinions and viewpoints were continually tossed about the room throughout the duration of the debate.
“In case I notice something, I can say it out loud and get feedback from others,” said James Rowe ’12 of watching the debate in a large group.
Following the debate, many students streamed back to their respective dorm rooms, while a residual crowd stayed behind to watch CNN’s post debate coverage. Despite the opinion of several High Rise residents that Palin was “destroyed” in her first nationally televised debate, the open forum for discussion and learning was invaluable.
“We wanted to do a very informal situation,” said Gocheleishvili of the debate viewing. “It’s very important for us to know how the future generation thinks.”