Forum

Choreographing diversity is common, wrong

In an article printed last Monday, “Michelle Obama speaks at presidential rally in Skibo Gym,” The Tartan discussed Michelle Obama’s visit to our campus and the questionable acts that followed on the part of those coordinating the event.

The Tartan’s reporting of these statements was devised neither as an attack on Barack Obama’s campaign nor as a sensationalized or inflammatory article. The statements made by these event coordinators — who, as it is now known, were volunteers rather than part of Michelle Obama’s team — were reported not to cause controversy, but because Carnegie Mellon students seemed genuinely shocked, and as such, it is the journalistic responsibility of The Tartan to report them. The issue at hand is that the aforementioned statements surprised the students in the audience for Michelle Obama’s speech, which took place on a campus known for its (albeit insular) diversity.

It is commonly known that the majority of political candidates perform such acts of crowd organizing to counterbalance stereotypes associated with that candidate and portray that candidate in the best light possible. John McCain’s event organizers have been accused of beefing up the crowd of young people behind the Senator. Hillary Clinton’s organizers have similarly made the news for incorporating middle-aged men and a younger Hispanic population to indicate that she, too, has a diverse group of supporters. The event coordinators at Mrs. Obama’s speech followed in this vein.

However, in this case, the language used by the event coordinators was surprisingly politically incorrect in its bluntness and lack of sensitivity. While we on the board find it disappointing that we, as a nation, are so used to inorganic campaign strategizing, we were less offended by the volunteer coordinators’ actions than the way they went about them. If choreographed diversity is a part of the campaign process, it should at least be done in a more diplomatic and less offensively blatant manner.

When reports of choreographed audiences surface in the news, readers most often answer with a shrug, as the technique has become increasingly common, and even expected, in political events. Still, it is important that we not become so used to this tactic that we begin to ignore its manipulative nature.

On a campus worth celebrating for its great racial and ethnic diversity among an intelligent, well-informed group of young voters, we as a student population are surprised at the need to alter the face of our student body. We do not think this event should be held against the campaign of Barack Obama. This is not an issue of Hillary versus Barack, or even of Republican candidate John McCain against either Democratic presidential hopeful. Rather, this is an issue of the character of political campaigns in our country today, and of the need for political correctness — or, even better, non-discriminatory campaign procedures — that serve not to alienate, but unite young voters.