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Inside Politics

NYU students weigh in on wartime election

Most say war doesn't affect their vote

By Ryan Hagen
Special to CNN

Editor's Note: Campus Vibe is a weekly feature that provides student perspectives on the 2004 election from selected colleges across the United States. This week's contributor is Ryan Hagen, a reporter at the Washington Square News, the student newspaper at New York University. The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of CNN, its affiliates or New York University.

NYU student correspondent Ryan Hagen

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Campus Vibe
America Votes 2004
War and Society

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Many students at New York University say that although they're concerned about violence in Iraq and detainee abuse in Abu Ghraib prison, the war is not the major factor shaping their choices in the 2004 presidential race.

"There's an urgency to change the presidency," NYU sophomore Alena Kolychkina said. But more than the war, she said, she is worried about what she called President Bush's social conservatism and hostility toward lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgendered people.

For Kolychkina, a college of arts and sciences student, Bush's handling of the war is "the most visible," not the most important, drawback to his presidency.

The university's College Democrats group hosted former Vice President Al Gore last month when he delivered his fiery speech condemning President Bush's policy in Iraq, calling for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

NYU sophomore Will Elkins said the invasion of Iraq did not influence his decision to support John Kerry. "Regardless of what [Bush] did on the war, I would have wanted someone else," he said.

He rejected the idea that the Bush administration's policy led directly to prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, one of the main premises of Gore's speech. "Just because I don't like George Bush, I'm not going to try to pin this on him," he said.

Kolychkina agreed. "As much as I'd like to make that accusation, I don't think there's enough evidence. With any new issue there's a lot of excitement and finger pointing," she said.

NYU has a liberal reputation. The lead-up to the invasion of Iraq last year was marked by a student walkout, and hundreds of NYU students took part in an antiwar protest that same week on its Washington Square Park campus.

But for many conservatives on campus, concern over continuing violence in Iraq has not significantly dented their support for Bush, though some admitted they were increasingly worried about the president's re-election chances.

"I supported the war," said junior and Bush supporter Jonathan Cipriani, "I still do." He added that if the violence in Iraq has changed his views on anything, it's made him "a little more conscious of how much more difficult the enterprise [of creating a Democratic Iraq] is going to be."

Omar Tungekar, a senior, agreed. "Nothing that's ever been worth fighting for has been easy to get," he said. "That doesn't lead me to support John Kerry," he added, saying that the senator from Massachusetts and presumptive Democratic candidate "lacks the vision to have a clear plan in Iraq."

Iraq does matter for some

For some students, however, the administration's handling of Iraq has undermined the president's credibility and ability to govern.

"The continued U.S. military deaths in Iraq forces each of us to question the legitimacy of Bush's actions every day," Justin Goldbach, a junior, said.

A supporter of John Kerry, he criticized Bush for not having a clear plan for a U.S. withdrawal.

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