Experimental College's Election Night Extravaganza brought hundreds of undergraduates together to watch as the country elected the next president of the United States.
Medford/Somerville, Mass. [11.07.08] While the campus radio station broadcast live election reports, a news crew set up cameras a few feet away. Students sat with their attention focused on wide screen televisions or on their laptops from which they monitored developments as they happened.
On November 4, election night, the Mayer Campus Center could easily have been mistaken for a broadcaset newsroom.
"People are getting tons of info from wherever they want," said Michael Sherry (A'09) "It feels like we're a CNN election center, it's pretty cool."
Since 1988, faculty and staff of Tufts' Experimental College have organized an event named the Election Night Extravaganza. The response to this year's election was particularly strong. "The Campus Center is electric!" exclaimed Queenette Karikari (A'09).
"I think the Campus Center should be like this all the time," said senior Matthew Shapanka. "It's packed; people are excited about the election."
The center's spacious layout accommodated abroad range of activities. As students crowded into the upstairs lounge, the webcasting group,JumboCast, broadcasted election updates. Members of WMFO, Tufts' student-run radio station, aired live reports and commentary throughout the night.
"We're producing a newscast covering the election with a student perspective," said JumboCast General Manager Matt Kaufman (A'09). "Since this election really affects the collegiate student group, we thought college students should be the ones covering it"
"We're just excited to be a part of it," said WMFO General Manager Drew Frankel (E'09). "We're just talking to people. Everyone's got their own Election Day story, and we want to hear it."
The action was no less frenzied downstairs.In the Hotung Café, faculty and students took turns emceeing the night's program.In the Commmons area, various student organizations managed information tables from which they distributed pamphlets and discussedkey election issues.
Environmental Consciousness Outreach (ECO) member Andrea Ness (A'11) said that the group came "to educate people about how the environment is playing a part in this election and what everyone can do to help the climate crisis."
At another table, Thomas Calahan (A'11) of Queer-Straight Alliance (QSA) said, "We're running a table basically to educate people about queer issues in the election. I've had some interesting conversations with people about [topics like] marriage equality and employment non-discrimination. I'm definitely glad we set up a booth here."
Meanwhile, other student organizations provided up-to-the-minute information on election returns. "We are covering the Senate races, seeing who people are voting for in the presidential race is affecting what Senate seats are changing hands," said ExCollege representative Ben Richards (A'12)."You can talk about issues all around the Commons, so that's pretty neat."
Media coverage: WFXT-TV (Ch. 25), Boston's FOX affiliate
For several groups, election night marked the climax of campus-wide voter registration drives. The Tufts Votes organization spent the semester registering students to vote. Their work mirrored similar campaigns by the Tufts Democrats and Tufts Republicans.
"I am physically exhausted," said Mike Hawley (A'11), the president of Tufts Republicans. "We've been doing all sorts of things from on-campus debates to phone banking, get-out-the-vote efforts and day trips up to New Hampshire."
Melissa Jones (A'10), a member of the Tufts Democrats, agreed, saying that her group has been "canvassing for Barack Obama every weekend, phone banking and bringing in a lot of speakers trying to get Obama elected."
Towards the end of the night, when the final results were announced. Obama supporters rejoiced. They jumped, screamed, hugged each other in a spontaneous celebration.
"This," said Curt Campbell (A'09), "is one college experience I'll never forget."
By Molly Frizzell (A'09). Photos by Joanie Tobin, University Photography.