October 30, 2008

ILR Hosts Mock Presidential Election, Debate

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Polls for the School of Industrial and Labor Relation’s 2008 mock presidential election opened yesterday, giving ILR students a preview of how their colleagues will be voting come Nov. 4. The mock election was organized by “Educate for ’08,” a non-partisan group within ILR whose goals include running “get out the vote” drives and informing the campus community of relevant issues.
In addition, volunteer ILR students represented the positions of candidates McCain and Obama on five major issues yesterday in Ives Hall during ILR Educates for 2008, a mock debate sponsored by the ILR Student Government Association, the ILR Women’s Caucus, the Minority ILR Student Organization and Educate for ’08.
“This is really a great opportunity for ILR to be at the forefront of this political race,” said Adam Roth ’09, vice president of Educate for ’08. Although the election is only available to ILR students, the debate was open to the public, and the event drew a large crowd.
Moderated by ILR Dean Harry Katz, the debate covered issues relevant to the ILR curriculum. Students presented the candidate’s policies on healthcare, taxes and budget, the Employee Free Choice Act, immigration and education. The Employee Free Choice Act aims to ease the process of forming and joining labor unions.
“The five issues were selected because they’re components of an ILR education,” said Heather Levy ’10, president of the ILR Student Government Association. “We’re hoping to offer an academic perspective and a better education of the issues.”
After candidate representatives presented the issues, a panel of five faculty professors responded by clarifying certain facets of the issues that had been brought up. The discussion was then open to the audience.
“By offering professor commentary and clarifying the issue without advocating it is like a non-biased opinion,” Levy said.
Though the mock debate is especially relevant in these final days before the election, the debate and mock election are the result of months in the making. Last semester, the ILR Women’s Caucus and ILR SGA began discussing the idea of the mock debate, seeing it as a prime chance to educate and encourage political participation. At the same time, Roth and student Yalda Haery ’09, president of Educate for ’08, were considering organizing a mock election within ILR, similar to the campus-wide mock election in 2004 but on a smaller scale.
“Once we started talking about [the debate], we sort of opened up for other organizations to join on if they wanted to,” said Levy. Educate for ’08 saw the opportunity to connect their election with the debate and became a sponsor of the debate.
“There’s no intent to predict the national election, it’s only for the ILR students to voice their views on the national election,” said Laura Lewis, director of ILR Student services.
The Minority ILR Student Organization helped advertise for the debate. MILRSO saw the debate and election not only as a chance to become more politically active, but also as a way to bring more attention to issues important to MILRSO’s interests.
“We just thought it was something for all of our members to become informed,” said Zak Bell, president of MILRSO. “Some of these issues have been put on the backburner in terms of the election in the media.”
Though the debate was mainly advertised towards ILR students, students from across Cornell came to learn about the issues.
“I came to be more informed in greater depth on both sides,” said Sabina Sattler ’12. Sattler, a student in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, is a McCain supporter. “I’m hoping that [the debate] will give me facts to argue and justification for why I have my opinion.”
The polls for the election opened yesterday at 8 a.m. and close Friday at midnight.
“We thought it’d be a good idea that once students were informed voters after our event, they could go out and vote,” said Krystal Bruyer ’09, president of the ILR Women’s Caucus.
The election results will be made public almost immediately after the polls close. Though the results are not a good indicator of national voting patterns, they could offer some surprising insights into the school’s political ideology.
“We tend to be an active school in terms of the issues,” said Levy. “A mock election will show you what our actual political affiliation is, because people always say ILR is a very liberal school.”