RICHMOND, Va. — The New York Times enlisted 20 student newspaper editors from around the country to weigh in on the first presidential debate in real time for the Times’ Caucus Blog. Below are the entries I filed from a watch party on the campus of the University of Richmond throughout the evening. Read the full stream of posts here.
11:35 p.m. — A few of the undecided voters I talked to after the debate weren’t swayed by either candidate, and some left saying that neither McCain nor Obama presented clear solutions to our foreign policy problems. To be honest, I think we might see a much stronger reaction from our students once candidates debate domestic issues. The overriding concern here, especially for seniors is: How does this economic crisis impact my ability to get a job after I graduate and my ability to pay back student loans?
10:28 p.m. — Our campus has really been pushing to be more environmentally sustainable in the last year, when our first-term president signed the Presidents Climate Commitment. Our environmental group on campus is highly active. On Fridays, our dining hall is encouraging students not to use trays so we reduce the amount of food we consume. Next year, energy monitors are being installed on all of our residence halls. The city’s bus system has proposed cutting the only bus route between our university and downtown Richmond, a move that sparked a lot of outrage and concern from faculty, students and staff who use it to get to and from the city — particularly with gas prices so high.
10:23 p.m. — The debate about policies concerning the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has been essentially a non-existent issue on this campus. We’ve got a small ROTC program — perhaps a dozen students — and two years ago we ran an article about ROTC students and what they thought about going into a war we weren’t winning. They considered it their duty to serve. But for the overwhelming majority of the students at this small, liberal arts college, they don’t have a direct stake in these wars. There may be small academic forums here and there about it. There’s a biology professor of ours working in Afghanistan for a year for the Wildlife Conservation Society. But there haven’t been ardent protests against the wars in the three years I’ve been here.
8:58 p.m. — I’m in a room with about 40 other students. A one-on-one student debate between the coordinator of students for Barack Obama and someone from the Students for McCain group is finishing up now.
Our newspaper just finished a three-day survey of 350 undergraduate students on campus (about 3,000 total). We’ve got a diverse representation of opinion. 71 percent of respondents said they were absolutely certain to vote in November. 52 percent said if the election were held today, they’d vote for Obama, 32 percent said McCain, 17 percent were undecided. More interesting: The people who identify as Democrat, Independent and Republican was virtually split. 35 percent said independent, 33 percent Democrat, 27 percent Republican. We’ve got a sizable number of religious conservative students on campus.