September 25th, 2008
04:42 PM ET

"Party" school hosts first presidential debate

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/09/25/art.lott.artair.jpg caption="Artair Rogers, second row, third from the right, is a junior Public Policy Major at Ole Miss."]

Editor's Note: Artair Rogers is a student intern for the William Winter Institute from Guntown, MS. He is a junior Public Policy Leadership major in the Trent Lott Leadership Institute and the Honors College. On campus, Artair is involved with the Associated Student Body, Ole Miss Ambassadors, and the Columns Society. Artair shares his thoughts on why Ole Miss is the perfect place to host Friday's first presidential debate.

Artair Rogers
Junior, University of Mississippi

With this presidential debate, we as students are more aware of the issues that are facing our country and our own demographic. Many articles present a link between racial tensions and the unique history of our university. As an African-American student, I have the utmost respect for the struggle of James Meredith; he helped pave the way for me to attend this university.

However, I believe that we should also focus on what students have been able to obtain because of James Meredith’s achievement. Because of James Meredith and other pioneers at this university, I am currently a junior in the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College and the Trent Lott Leadership Institute.

My story is becoming more common among African-American students at the university. Our entire student body has advanced. Yes, we still have problems, but again, I reiterate that there is progress. The measure of progress may be hard to define, but I feel that we have an administration and a group of student leaders who are more than ready to take our university to the next level in all aspects.

This is why we are having this debate. I feel that Ole Miss is in the middle of a breakthrough, and this debate symbolizes that.

To reiterate, many reporters have quickly linked our school to the story of James Meredith. Unfortunately, we fail to be recognized for the strides that we have made academically.

As a school that is often observed as a “party” school, we have shown that we are passionate about the issues, and we desire to see some kind of change. Whether a student supports Senator McCain or Senator Obama, each student wants to see the country head in the right direction in the next four years.

The students of this university have engaged in debate-related activities; we have learned about potential solutions to these problems from policy experts in various fields. This presidential debate has sparked an interest in politics in the students of Ole Miss. Students seem more engaged; there are students hosting voter registration drives, and we continuously wear our preferred candidates’ shirts/paraphernalia with pride.

Furthermore, initiatives made by the student government have helped foster this sense of awareness as well. USpeak, a project sponsored by the Associated Student Body (ASB), provides a voice where college students are able to discuss the issues that affect college students. Essentially, the Mississippi Student Body President’s Council has partnered with the university to come together to create one strong, clear voice for college students.

Our hope is that USpeak will serve as an avenue for college students to present solutions to significant problems that directly affect our demographic. The Associated Student Body also co-sponsored the “I’m Voting For Campaign” with Campus Progress Action. We filmed several testimonials, in which students provided a personal connection to an issue that was driving them to the polls this November.

There is definitely a buzz of activism filling the atmosphere of Ole Miss. What can I say? Our university is truly living up to its claim of being a great American public university.

Filed under: Barack Obama • John McCain • Race in America • Raw Politics • youth vote
soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. Annie Kate

    It is great to see how enthused young people are about this election. My college daughter talks about it all the time and she even co-opted her 15 year old sister to help give out flyers. I've even been lectured about how I should vote!! I hope they don't get disillusioned.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    September 25, 2008 at 10:08 pm |
  2. Fay, CA

    It's encouraging to hear that the students at the University of Mississippi are involved and engaged in the current political race and I hope that the same enthusiasm is taking place at other universities across the country–there's a lot of talk about young people and their impact on elections–it will be interesting to see whether these students will come out in force to vote on election day.

    September 25, 2008 at 6:28 pm |