In the spring, Assistant Professor of Political Science Andy Civettini started planning a viewing party for Election Night. Tonight, close to 150 students crowded into the Taylor Lounge to watch the results come in. It was the latest in a pattern of activity this election cycle which, Civettini believes, speaks volumes about political engagement on campus. TKS snagged a few minutes with Civettini on election night to discuss his electoral predictions and why student enthusiasm for elections is important.
The Knox Student: After Pennsylvania and Wisconsin have been called, what’s your prediction of who will win the general election?
Andy Civettini: It’s the same as before. I just went over the math with one of your editors. If Obama wins Wisconsin, Iowa, New Hampshire, Colorado, and Nevada … he doesn’t need Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, or Ohio. Everyone right now is looking at a nightmare recount. North Carolina will be close. Florida will be very close. But Obama could lose all four, and we could still call the election.
My reading of the polls is that Obama will get two of those four for sure. Florida and North Carolina will be coin flips. He was ahead in Ohio and Virginia in the polling. It’s a question of turnout, and it looks like it will be about 130 million [voters nationwide]. That’s high. That’s very high. And it’s a good statement about the health of our democracy. But until every person votes, we haven’t reached the full potential of our democratic idea.
TKS: What has it been like being on a college campus this election cycle?
AC: This fall has really been a vindication of the posting online that we’re one of the 10 most politically active colleges. We’ve had wonderful debates organized by student organizations, great speakers, formal classes on the election [and] professors who brought the election into other material. We embraced the notion that political education is important. …
The campus overall was just fantastic, and honestly, what more could you have hoped for with engagement? Students came to the speakers. They came to the debates. The faculty were engaged, the staff were engaged … the students were having honest, fair discussions. People came together to celebrate the process as much as anything.
As an educator who believes in the liberal arts mission, it’s about students going out and engaging in the world and learning how to get what they want. What we have here is the energy and enthusiasm and, what’s encouraging to me, the knowledge to do these things. It says a lot about the faculty, the students we have, and the environment we have created. The campus is committed and engaged, and regardless of the outcome, people are celebrating the process.
A lot of students had to be here [at the Election Night Party] for class, but we’re two hours in, and people are still here hanging out. They’re learning from each other and peeking at things on the Internet. That’s the hallmark of a truly politically engaged campus, but I want us to be number one. When I retire, I want there to be a tradition of an engaged student body who changes the world, and not just in politics.