NYU students settle for Kerry
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.
NEW YORK (CNN) -- When voters in the Democratic primaries were making John Kerry their choice to run for the White House, exit polls showed their biggest concern was finding a candidate to beat President Bush.
Now, several weeks after his formal nomination, and several months after he became the party's front-runner, Kerry still fails to generate excitement among many of the New York University students who share an antipathy toward the Republican incumbent.
Senior Arielle Bier, who describes herself as a "pretty radical liberal," said she would vote for Kerry more as an alternative to President Bush than because of the Massachusetts senator's own merits.
"I believe in universal health care and a living wage," Bier said, "but I'm also a concerned citizen, and I think you have to work within the system to make change."
The drive for change is a uniting factor among many pro-Kerry students -- Democrats and others.
"I support the Green Party, and Ralph Nader, and I'd love to see them gain ground, but Kerry's the only candidate who stands a chance of beating Bush," said Anne Dana, an NYU senior.
She said she opposed the president's anti-abortion policies and his decision to send troops to Iraq.
Dana was among the thousands of protesters at the United for Peace and Justice march on Madison Square Garden a day before the Republican National Convention opened on August 30.
The demonstration was thick with anti-Bush signs and chants, but Kerry/Edwards signs were few and far between. The march began and ended in Union Square, home to more than 2,000 NYU students in three dorms.
Dana said she showed up at the march and subsequent protests sporting Kerry gear because she wanted to give a positive message beyond the anti-Bush sloganeering.
"The protests aren't pro-Kerry, they're anti-Bush. I want to provide a concrete example, other than Bush, who to vote for," Dana said.
While some students made their point in the streets of Manhattan and outside Madison Square Garden, others were busy inside the arena.
For junior Morgan Grod, attending the convention as a production assistant offered a rare opportunity.
"Going to NYU, I don't meet too many people who share my beliefs, so it gives me a chance not to feel like I'm suppressing my beliefs in my own state."
Grod said she supports Bush because in a post-9/11 era, "defense has to be the most important issue," but is not sure about social issues.
"I don't want to tell someone what they can or cannot do, but I am definitely against abortion, so I agree with the president on that," Grod said.
Joe Metzger, another convention participant, touts Bush's handling of the war on terror.
"He is the better candidate on the most important issue of our time. He has the stomach for the fight," said Metzger, a junior and president of the NYU College Republicans.
But turns out that at NYU even young Republicans aren't as passionate as the administration about some topics.
"It's not that I don't agree with [President Bush] on social policy, it's just that issues like gay rights and abortion don't get my blood boiling, so I accept that as part of the platform," Metzger said.
As for the protests, Metzger said they didn't shake him. "It's pretty much what I'm used to at NYU, but on a grander scale."
Students split on convention location
Republicans said they chose New York for their convention to show the world the Big Apple has recovered from the 9/11 attacks. Reaction to that decision seems to fall along party lines.
Student correspondent Ryan Hagen
Senior Sumeet Shina viewed with skepticism convention speeches that tied the attacks to Bush's re-election campaign.
"Many of us lost people close to us in the attacks, and we can see through that, just invoking terrorism for political purposes," he said.
But Grod was "ecstatic" that the convention was held in her hometown and saw no problem with invoking 9/11.
"President Bush is a genuine American citizen. He is compassionate about his citizens," Grod said. "I don't think in any way he has tried to exploit the 9/11 attacks. It was a way of remembrance."
Fellow Republican Metzger offered a different, less partisan perspective.
"All politics is politics," Metzger said. "People will use whatever is in their best interest to get elected."