Most of us recall, with apocryphal wistfulness, the Princeton Review’s 2001 declaration that Carnegie Mellon was the most politically apathetic college campus in America. Some of us in student leadership have taken that declaration as a challenge. I, in particular, have been organizing a stridently non-partisan collaborative awareness and publicity effort known as Project Jefferson, which is an effort of AB Political Speakers, AB Publications, and Student Activities.
It is thus with deep disappointment that I say this: I can’t report, in good conscience, that Carnegie Mellon students support the campaigns of Senators Hillary Clinton and John McCain.
Project Jefferson’s slogan is “What do you care about?” It reflects the effort’s core philosophy: You matter. Our government is one of, by, and for you, citizens of the United States. That philosophy is the reason for my frustration with the Clinton and McCain campaigns. As part of my work, I’ve reached out to all of the campaigns to help them create a presence on campus, and neither the Clinton nor the McCain camps have reached back.
Senator McCain’s situation is perhaps understandable; mired in his own expenditure restrictions and lacking immediate need, he has not set up a Pittsburgh office or major campaign effort in the area. His only volunteering contact for Pennsylvania is via e-mail. However, my efforts to start a dialogue with the campaign were apparently ignored; I have received no replies or acknowledgments. I consider this to be inexcusable treatment of a response to his campaign’s solicitation for volunteers.
Senator Clinton’s campaign simply boggles my mind. Despite her popularity in Pennsylvania, her office opening was sparse — in the hour I was there, 10 supporters showed up, some of them community organizers. The staff members outnumbered their supporters two to one, and had no qualms telling organizers that their efforts to engage their communities would have to be folded into their centralized command system before those efforts could be useful to the campaign. The pressure to volunteer for the campaign (which I considered myself ethically barred from doing during a visit as a nonpartisan organizer) was tremendous. I left my contact information for them to follow up with me to establish a channel for Carnegie Mellon volunteers but, like the McCain campaign, they never followed up.
By contrast, an Obama campaign staffer has been on campus regularly for the past six weeks, working with Carnegie Mellon Students for Barack Obama. The Obama campaign brought two speakers to campus, Zachary Quinto and Michelle Obama. The Obama office opening in East Liberty was filled to overflow with local citizens and politicians, a striking contrast with the positively sparse Clinton office opening. The Obama campaign is a grassroots movement; quite literally, it is a collection of people whose unifying characteristic is that they care. And perhaps most tellingly, when I told them I was acting as a nonpartisan organizer, they lauded my efforts, and the pressure to volunteer disappeared. I have no qualms with the Obama campaign the way I do with the others.
I’ve debated writing this letter at all, given that it draws a line of nonsupport. But, at the same time, I have a stack of posters advocating volunteering for all three campaigns, paid for and printed, which I have not felt comfortable putting up on campus because two of those campaigns have not done their part. I feel that the behavior of these campaigns towards prospective supporters, especially those students, is a strong indicator of how much the campaigns really care about us as people, not just as dollars and votes. What more crucial information about the candidates could there be? I can think of none.
Activities Board Publications
Chair and Project Jefferson