November 6, 2012

Cornell Reacts to President Obama’s Victory

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Relief and joy swept through much of the Cornell and Ithaca communities late Tuesday night as President Barack Obama fought off challenger Gov. Mitt Romney to win a second term.

The campus euphoria that accompanied Obama’s 2008 election was largely subdued, but jubilant students still celebrated throughout North Campus dormitories, Collegetown apartments and viewing parties across Cornell.

For many students, Obama’s reelection revived the excitement they felt four years ago, when a campaign built on lofty rhetoric ushered much of America’s youth into political consciousness. That generation turned out across the nation in staggering numbers for Obama on Tuesday, according to preliminary poll results.

Cornellians appeared to be no exception. Students voted in the hundreds, according to poll workers at Collegetown’s St. Luke’s Church. They journeyed to battleground states, like Ohio and Virginia, to give Obama a better chance. And when the work was done late Tuesday night, some still made it to Collegetown bars to celebrate.

At the Cornell Democrats’ viewing party in Collegetown, cheers reverberated throughout the room the second Fox News declared the race over.

“Four more years! Four more years! Four more years,” the crowd of about 70 chanted, rising to its feet.

“I’m beyond ecstatic,” started Talia Fiano ’14, before cries of “Obama! Obama!” drowned her out.

Republicans’ Disappointment

Not everyone, however, was celebrating Tuesday night. At Alpha Delta Phi fraternity, where the Cornell Republicans gathered to watch the election results, the atmosphere was somber. Once CNN announced that Obama won the election, silence filled the room and shock washed over many of students’ faces.

“[The results are] pretty much in line with my expectations,” said Jess Reif ’14, chair of the Cornell Republicans. “Of course, [I] was hoping Romney would win, but I guess that is not the case. I am glad we kept the House, though.”

Elsewhere on Tuesday, students like Isabel Stonehouse ’15 expressed skepticism over whether Obama’s reelection will propel the country forward.

“I honestly don’t expect much to change in the next four years. I think that it’ll be pretty much the same,” Stonehouse said.

Reelection for the First African-American President

In Ujamaa Residential College, the mood was almost the exact opposite. More than 60 students gathered in front of the television in Ujamaa’s main lounge, erupting in cheers when blue-colored states appeared and groaning loudly with red-colored states flashed on the screen.

Fernando Quiroz ’16 said that the tension was palpable as residents watched election results pour in.

“It’s one of the best experiences to be here with a lot of other students, seniors, sophomores, juniors, and just being able to watch the election,” Quiroz said.

For Shannon Cohall ’14, the reelection of the country’s first black president marked another “historic moment” for the U.S.

“It means that all things are possible for us, if someone can look up to [Obama] to emulate not only his tradition as president, but also his academic success and career success,” she said. “We can all emulate him — black, white, anyone. He’s not just a role model for black people.”

Four years ago, the election of America’s first black president changed what Prof. Margaret Washington, history, thought about her country. In an interview before Obama’s reelection was announced, Washington, who studies the history of black Americans, said the results would test the lessons she drew from that night.

“[This election] means a lot in terms of my assessment of the American people and their willingness to choose a good leader and forget about the color of his skin,” Washington said. “It’s emotional; it’s historical; it’s personal.”

The Freshman Experience

Watching media outlets announce Obama’s victory in a Donlon Hall lounge, freshmen broke into celebration. But on Tuesday, many of them celebrated more than Obama’s reelection.

One first-time voter, Emily Decicco ’16 — who woke up “really early” to vote — said she was “really excited” as she camped out in RPCC with friends to watch the elections.

“Words cannot describe how happy I am, and I am glad to be a part of history,” said Alex Dopico ’16, another first time voter.

Donna Hibbert, a poll worker who has volunteered in that capacity for the past 25 years, said seeing students vote for the first time was one of the reasons she did not mind getting up at 5:30 a.m. and staying late into the night.

“Many of the students are voting for the first time, and they’re excited about it,” Hibbert said.

At a lounge in Robert Purcell Community Center, where dozens of students multitasked — eating popcorn, doing homework and watching CNN — several freshmen expressed pride over being part of the election.

“One of those millions of votes is mine,” Carolyn Sussman ’16 said.

The Academic View

While emotions ran high on both sides Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning, Cornell’s professors were also prepared to analyze the historic election from a political perspective.

“The GOP faces a bleak future at the national level if it cannot address its pressing demographic problems. The gender gap was big again tonight, and Romney ran very poorly among hispanic and African American voters,” said Prof. Fredrik Logevall, history. “Whites are making up a smaller percentage of the electorate with each passing presidential election. How will Republicans respond?”

Prof. Ross Brann, near eastern studies, cautioned that despite the excitement, Americans have cause to be worried about the future of their democracy.

“We should all be concerned about voter suppression, long wait lines for voters and the realization that tens of millions of Americans do not bother to vote,” he said. “Something is very wrong with American democracy.”

Even professors, however, were not immune from the election night euphoria that captivated many on Cornell’s campus.

“I think it’s wonderful that he won re-election,” Prof. Mary Beth Norton, history, said.

Noah Rankin, Tajwar Mazhar, Rudy Yoder, Olivia Dang, Caroline Flax, Sylvia Rusnak, Jonathan Dawson, Justin Rouillier and Akane Otani contributed reporting to this story.

Original Author: Sun Staff