Last night, Uncle Sam was nothing more than a side show. Hundreds of students gathered in the Hall of Flags at Houston Hall last night to celebrate and watch the 2000 presidential election results as they were reported. The event combined a live jazz band, a stand that distributed free cheesesteaks and Tastykake, kegs of root beer and Uncle Sam on stilts in an effort to involve the Penn community -- particularly undergraduate students -- in the election process. Television monitors around the room featured election coverage from all of the major networks. "Our job is to hold events that are a lot of fun," said Theo LeCompte, director of the Social Planning and Events Committee, which co-sponsored the event along with the Undergraduate Assembly. "We are ecstatic at tonight's turnout," the Engineering senior added. The room could barely hold the large, boisterous crowd, which erupted periodically upon the release of the latest projections. "It's fantastic to experience such an event in public," College sophomore Jake Kraft said. "A presidential election means something for everybody in this country." The event was the culmination of efforts made by SPEC and the UA to educate Penn students and encourage them to voice their opinions. The UA also held a voter registration week, during which 700 Penn students registered to vote in Pennsylvania. "We have a vested interest in educating the student body about the elections," said UA Chairman Michael Bassik, who also ran the Penn for Gore club. "We're trying to help students exercise their rights." During the several-hour long festival, students filtered in and out of the room -- some busy socializing with friends, others more intently focused on the election results. Despite the impartial nature of the event, the crowd on hand was clearly biased toward Vice President Al Gore. Boos were heard on occasion when Texas Gov. George W. Bush was projected to win a state. "This turnout shows that College Democrats are growing and on the rise at Penn," said College sophomore Aaron Short, who is the club's treasurer. "We've been in a funk for a while, but I think we'll see an increase in membership after this election." The College Democrats passed out signs in both English and Spanish promoting the Gore-Lieberman ticket. However, the Penn Republicans organization was not intimidated by the fact that they were so drastically outnumbered. "We wanted to show that there is some Republican support on this campus," College junior Kelly McKinney said. "We did as much as we could on campus, and we're happy with our support." The largest cheers of the night were heard upon the projection of Senate victories in New York for Hillary Rodham Clinton and in New Jersey for Jon Corzine. A large ovation also came when Gore was projected to be the winner in Pennsylvania. The biggest surprise of the night came when the networks took back their projection that Gore would win Florida. Stunned students voiced their disappointment and anger at the networks for getting the state wrong so early in the night. Despite the sizeable crowd, only a scattered few students attended on behalf of independent candidates. Most notably, there was almost no support on behalf of Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader, who failed to receive the 5 percent of votes that he would need to have federal funding for his upstart party. Still, the organizing bodies were extremely pleased with the excitement that the election, the closest in decades, generated in the Penn community. "This was much more than we ever could have called for," College freshman and UA member Kirsten Grubbs said. "Penn students were such a deciding factor, and we strongly influenced the vote in Philadelphia." Many of the students in attendance were impressed by the effort put into organizing the event. "It's great that groups like these bring awareness and help promote activism on the Penn campus," College freshman Debbie Fromstein said. Although the crowd was bi-partisan, grudges were not held between students from opposing parties. "The Republicans have just as much of a right as everybody else to support their candidate," College sophomore and Democrat Tonica Jenkins said. "It's much more interesting to watch with other people, especially from other parties."Comments powered by Disqus
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