Calling for a Little Sound and Fury on Campus This Political Season

The election is three weeks away and I would like to see the level of passion and pique among St. Thomas students ratchet up – dramatically. If you can’t get excited over the presidential and U.S. Senate races this year, you’ll have trouble fogging up a drinking glass.

What I’m missing on campus is some rambunctious rhetoric over the noon hour in The Grill, with an arm-waving, table-pounding intensity that only the self righteous can muster.

Or dueling campaign signs in dormitory windows.

Or a dozen letters a week to The Aquin, taking umbrage or offering support.

The issues are relevant, the divisions apparent and the differences clear:
Is Al Franken a contentious comedian or a thoughtful critic?
John McCain: a wise warrior, courageous maverick or George Bush’s third term?
Barack Obama: an insightful new voice or a soundbite cliché?

My friends, we have some things – and some bodies – to argue about, and I’d like to see more of that breaking out on campus. I’m calling for a little sound and fury. Well, maybe not fury, but passion.

Of course, I went to undergraduate school at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where politics and protest were part of the fabric of campus life. But some discussion, debate and, yes, even dissension is good for this campus, a reflection of the increasing diversity at St. Thomas.

Encouraging signs do exist. Steven Hatting, political science professor, says he senses a high level of interest in the presidential election among his students. “Even before the nomination process was over,” says Hatting, “the students in my classes were more knowledgeable about the views of presidential contenders than I’d ever seen before.”

Sophomore Ariel Kendall says she sees a lot of election interest in Dowling Hall. “They (students) don’t get real verbal about it (their politics) unless they know the person. You don’t want to offend anyone.”

Britney Bryant, president of the Undergraduate Student Government, says 450 students have been registered to vote by her group and the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group.

That’s a good start. But I’d like a little more action – and reaction. Franken was on campus a week ago, and 200 or so students came to hear him. Franken didn’t take any questions, but it’s too bad one of his critics wasn’t there to shout out, “Why isn’t Betty McCollum here?” McCollum, who has criticized some of Franken’s satirical prose, was scheduled to appear with him.

I say let's run the risk of offending someone as the election draws closer. Let ‘em know how you feel. Listen to what they have to say. Agree to disagree. Finally, instead of 450 new voters registered on campus, let’s make that closer to 4,000.

This is a helluva good time to cast your first vote.