Forum discusses race in the 2008 election

Faculty and student panels sat down to speak about race in the upcoming election last Thursday.

The significance of race in the presidential campaign was discussed during a student town hall forum last Thursday. Hosted by students from the journalism department’s Experimental Journalism course and Temple’s Senate Committee on the Status of Faculty of Color, the forum allowed student leaders to discuss the importance of race in this year’s election.

“Race is an issue in this election, specifically with Barack Obama and with Temple being the Diversity University,” said Karen Turner, associate professor of journalism. “It seemed like a good opportunity to begin this conversation and have a meaningful dialogue about it.”

A panel of faculty members discussed race and its historical relevance to the election. Faculty panelists included Paul Taylor, David Farber, Kimmika Williams-Witherspoon and David Harrington Watt.

“Race is particularly important for some obvious reasons, but also certain kinds of historical trends are coming to head. It’s going to have to be dealt with one way or another,” said Taylor, who is the chair for the philosophy department.

Student leaders on the panel voiced their concerns about issues that are being debated by presidential candidates Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama.

“I’m here to represent a different voice for those who may not have been represented,” said Kylie Patterson, a political science and African-American studies major. “This election is important for me because I’m not sure if I’ll be able to afford next year’s tuition. I’m concerned about the future and my mother not having social security to fall back on.”

Audience members participated in electronic surveys using clicker remotes. Results from one question showed the majority of those in attendance identified themselves as Democrats when asked about their political affiliations.

Many audience members said Obama’s policies appeal to college students more than McCain’s.

“I’m worried about the election because I’m worried about the economy,” said Jessica Lista, a sophomore journalism major. “I’m really trying to endorse Obama because I feel like he would really help students and the rising college tuition more than McCain would.”

“I feel race is a huge issue in the race right now, and people are still judging race in this campaign,” she added. “I feel like they shouldn’t be focusing so much on color but more on the issues.”

Other audience members shared similar views about supporting Obama. They acknowledged the relevance of race in the campaign and the importance of discussing it.

Senior African-American studies major Jardyn Lake said students don’t have “real conversations” about race.

“We usually only touch on the surface and then move on,” Larke said. “It was interesting to see what would come out of this debate. We’re always talking about how diverse Temple is, but it’s also still largely segregated. Race is still an issue.”

Taara Savage-El can be reached at taarasavage-el@temple.edu.

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