Nov 11, 2008

Presidential race elicits high-strung emotionsand spirited reactions from some students

by Mandi Sullivan

The American people witnessed history in the making on Nov. 4 as Barack Obama was elected the 44th president of the United States. The historical aspect was not that another president was elected, but the fact that Obama is America’s first black president.
Some students found it difficult to acknowledge this historical milestone because of their strong opposition to President-elect Obama’s position on issues like abortion and marriage.

The election party in the Vines Center gave evidence to the issue of conflict among students.

“It was extremely segregated ... Obama versus McCain supporters – there were people of various races with both sections,” junior Grace Scott said. “People were slamming chairs, walking around and proudly holding signs — it was pretty heated.”

Some students’ reactions to President-elect Obama’s win were less than admirable. Almost immediately after Obama was named the winner, some students’ Facebook statuses entertained ideas of moving to other countries — my status included. Unfortunately, I did not realize the wrong doing of my choices until after I had a fight with my best friend, an Obama supporter.

After arguing with my friend, I decided it was a good time for me to sit down and spend some time with God, doing my devotional.

The passage that I was scheduled to read was Hebrews 13:17-25. The verses speak about obeying and submitting to leaders, convicting me loudly and clearly of my unkind and disrespectful actions.

However, with that lesson learned or relearned, I was not prepared for the hostility that I felt in my classes the next day. The demeanor of almost everyone on campus was stiff and rigid. I encountered some sort of conflict related to the election in all of my classes that day, including the most memorable when an Obama supporter walked out of class in response to a request to pray for our nation that came from another student.

Nor is the hostility on campus one-sided. I have heard McCain supporters voice their opinions in a not-so-nice way to Obama supporters. Some have wrongly equated support or non-support for Obama as a racial issue.

“Based on many conversations of this week I think that one should not draw the conclusion that just because one is African American that they voted for Sen. Obama and just because a person is white that they voted for Sen. McCain,” Vice President of Spiritual Affairs and the Director of the Office of Student Leadership Dwayne Carson said. “We should not be calling a person a racist because they did not vote for the person you liked.”

The conflict was even reported to the administration.

“It has come to my attention that some students on campus who either are democrats or persons who simply are excited about the election of President-elect Obama were being malignantly harassed for their views,” Director of Student Conduct Keith Anderson said.

“In addition to threatening language being hurled face-to-face another student reported insensitive dialogue being exchanged through internet social groups.”

Melany Pearl, director of the Center for Multicultural Enrichment said, “I have heard reports of flagrant, verbal disrespect and also one report of comments made by a professor in class.”

Fortunately, the rumors of physical fights were dispelled by LUPD Chief Howard Gregory. Unfortunately, the issues of tension reached all the way to Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. The situation continued to develop to the point where Falwell felt the need to issue an e-mail to students, asking that students be conscientious of the fact that we represent God and the school with our actions.

“As students and staff members of a Christian university, we all need to pray for President-elect Obama and we need to congratulate him for making history by being elected the first African-American president of the United States,” Falwell said in his e-mail to students. “Whether we support him on the issues or not, he will be our president and the Bible requires that we submit to the authorities that God places over us unless and until man’s laws conflict with God’s laws.”

I feel as students of a Christian university we should be held to a higher standard of conduct. I understand arguments tend to get heated when politics are discussed, but harsh words only create more tension and disunity.
“(Students should) seek to understand before seeking to be understood,” Carson said. “It is said of Abraham Lincoln that he spent more time trying to understand another person’s views seeking to promote his views.”

The recent tension between students offers nothing more than disrespect for our country, president and school. America has always been referred to as a “melting pot” – a country accepting of all individuals. It is my understanding that based on America’s constitution, citizens are expected to rally behind the new president regardless of race, religion or political beliefs.

“People are aware of racial tension, but very few people venture outside of their circle to find out about people of other races, learn about their experiences and the cultural differences,” Scott said. “We’re still all human beings and our differences make us unique … there should be an exchange of ideas.”

The best way for Liberty to ensure Christian principles are not lost in America would be for students to show respect for one another. We should trust God has a plan, and know that President-elect Obama is a part of the plan.

“Our campus, regardless of who you supported, must give the office and Barack Obama the respect of the office of president of the United States of America, literally the commander and chief of this great nation,” Pearl said.


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