Middle-aged Republican picketers stir controversy
Adult members of the Republican Party who gathered behind MSNBC’s live broadcast from Graham Chapel with large McCain-Palin signs touched off controversy among students on Thursday.
Many of the Washington University students felt that the adults used the media to misrepresent the political views of students at the University.
“They were just pushing their way from the back,” freshman Jed Jackoway said. “It was just obnoxious.”
Members of the group said they were volunteers from Illinois, but would not give details about how they gained access to campus.
Ben Guthorn, president of the College Democrats, felt that the adults were wrong to hold signs at the stage, especially since he saw some of them had credentials allowing access to the debate hall.
“I think that having older volunteers wasting time and space on a college campus by just holding placards and taking away opportunities from the students who actually go to Wash. U. is detrimental not only to why Wash. U. holds the debates, but kind of tears down the nice atmosphere that we have here,” Guthorn said.
Sophomore Justin Samakow, campaign coordinator for the College Republicans, disagreed.
“I personally think it’s good that they’re here,” Samakow said. “It’s good that they’re helping out.”
Samakow felt that the sign-holders helped to show that the University has a substantial moderate and conservative presence, not just a liberal presence.
Like Guthorn, junior Lauren Botterson felt the adults misrepresented the true political climate on campus.
“They don’t even go here,” Botteron, who took issue with the signs themselves, said. “We have makeshift signs. They have big poles.”
Junior Tegan Bukowski, holding a McCain-Palin sign, questioned this reasoning.
“What does it actually matter whether they’re even from here?” Bukowski asked. “Why does it have to be just Wash. U. students?”
Other students such as junior Jacob Vineberg only minded the position of the signs. “If they were further back, it would be okay,” Vineberg said. “The really big McCain and Palin signs were large and really obstructive.”
Sophomore Alex Bensick, however, believed that it was important for the adults not to be mistaken for students.
Midway through the afternoon, Bensick and other students held up a sign that had arrows pointing to the other sign-holders and said, “These People Are Not Students.”
“Since it’s being held at Wash. U.’s campus,” Bensick said, “it sort of presents a false image of students here.”
Although the majority of the McCain-Palin sign-holders refused to speak to the press, Linda Scheaffer of Illinois defended the group’s actions.
“I just want to support Palin,” Scheaffer said. “I think she was a wonderful choice for vice president.”