Rollins Celebrates Democracy

November 04, 2008

On election night, more than 250 Rollins students, faculty and staff watched history unfold on Rollins' Mills Lawn during "Uncle Sam's After-Poll Party", a non-partisan event from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. Rollins students, faculty and staff brought blankets and chairs to view election results on a projector screen and take part in “discussion pits” hosted by Rollins professors. Sarah Palin and Joe Biden impersonators were there to entertain the crowd. All-American cuisine such as hamburgers, hotdogs, corn on the cob, apple pie, popcorn and snow cones were served. Students participated in an apple pie-eating contest and potato sack races.

The Rollins Step Team and local band the Thought Doctors performed for the crowd. Attendees posed with Obama and McCain cardboard cut-outs. Students organizers spread the word about the election day activities via "WTF Rollins” (We Tackle the Future at Rollins) Facebook group and the "Uncle Sam's After-Poll Party" Facebook event.

The after-poll party and a variety of additional campus election events were put on by "WTF Rollins" (We Tackle the Future at Rollins), a student organization formed this fall that is actually a collaboration of different student groups. Refusing to allow Rollins to be stagnant during this presidential election, student leaders from across campus came together with a mission to make sure the Rollins community was politically active.

"The goals of 'WTF Rollins' were to register students to vote, to educate voters and to get students voters to show up at the polls," said WTF Rollins executive board member Brittany Fornof (Class of 2011).

Leading up to Election Day, Rollins students held numerous voter registration drives and education sessions; hosted debate viewing parties; held events featuring Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, Amendment 2 discussion panels and more. Rollins provided free buses on Election Day to take students from Mills Lawn to Winter Park voting locations.

Rollins College was recognized by Florida Campus Compact for for outstanding efforts to increase civic-mindedness through campus-wide voter registration, education and awareness campaigns. Out of the 52 college campuses that belong to Florida Campus Compact, Rollins was recognized with a 3rd Place Democracy Cup Award (behind Florida State and Miami University) for these efforts.

On October 29, Rollins students overflowed the Galloway Room as a group of their peers put on a debate "they wish the presidential candidates would have had." Students, faculty and the community were invited to the event encouraging participation in this year’s election.

“As a group of politically minded students, we believe that our peers are universally uneducated on specific issues because politicians spend more time on political rhetoric, than they do on the actual issues at hand," said debate organizer Rob Moore (Class of 2010). "So the Rollins College Debate Team, Rollins College Republicans, Rollins College Democrats and the Philosophy Club set up a debate centered around the belief that open and honest discourse on the actual issues is the best way to approach this election as a politically active campus."

Around 200 students attended the event to watch their peers debate three topics: the economy, foreign policy and the environment – the three issues student organizers believe are the most pressing in this year’s election.

One team represented each candidate (Barack Obama and John McCain) and articulated justifications for their candidate’s positions throughout the debate. The participants prepared for this event for weeks so they were able to represent the candidates accurately. 

“The idea was to give attendees a debate in which they heard the actual issues discussed by their peers,” Moore said. “We wanted to have a debate that accurately represented the opinions of the candidates. And we wanted to give students a forum to be able to ask questions and discuss the issues most important to them.”

Following the debate, organizers opened the floor for an open-forum discussion for the student body, faculty and community to engage in the conversation by questioning the different teams as well as conversing and debating with each other.

Many students stayed after the big debate to continue discussion about issues directly relating to their vote, including a more in-depth talk on the environment and economy, as well as social issues such as gay marriage and abortion.

“As students who ascribe to the values of a liberal arts education it is our duty to vote,” Moore said. “We are responsible as people who are pursuing a more comprehensive knowledge and working to become global citizens to go out and cast a complete and educated ballot.”

"Uncle Sam's After-Poll Party" photos by Ana Maia (Class of 2008)
Student Debate photos by JB Braun (Class of 2010)

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