Curious Reversals

The article on Denison student politics showing almost a two-to-one student preference for Kerry was very interesting, but parts were puzzling.

In contradiction to author’s statement, the data attached to the article show that the younger students (Class of ‘08) were more likely to vote for Kerry than the older ones (Class of ‘05). Unexpected, therefore, was that data showing that the younger students were somewhat less liberal than the seniors. Not the usual correlation: self identified liberals vote overwhelmingly Democratic.

The data fit the national pattern: college students on secular campuses tend to be Democrats. Interesting additional information would be the preference of fraternity members in contrast with those males not affiliated as well as faculty political preference.

I am reminded of a survey taken during the 1956 elections. I cannot find the article about it in my files, so my memory could be a bit off. Most likely the 1956 survey was less scientific than the one reported on in your article.

According to my memory, Denison students strongly preferred the Republican Eisenhower over the Democratic Stevenson (perhaps as high as nine-to-one) while the sample of faculty members showed a preference for Stevenson two- or three-to-one. Perhaps such overwhelming student political preferences contributed to history professor Bob Seager’s labeling us students of the 1950s as “conformists.” While today, if the data in the article are any measure, Denison students are “diverse.” Now, in contrast to the 1950s, it seems that it is the faculty, not the students, who think alike politically–unless the Denison faculty is widely different from liberal arts faculty as a whole, a group that could have been as high as nine-to-one for Kerry.

Not surprising then that the data suggest that those students on the campus the longest are the more liberal.

Springfield, Illinois

The results reported in the article were correct: the older the students, the more who labeled themselves liberal and claimed to vote for John Kerry. The graphic incorrectly depicted the class year designations in reverse order, which we rather embarrassingly did not catch during our proofing phase. Thanks to Dr. Scott for setting us straight!

Denison Archivist Heather Lyle found a report in the Nov. 5, 1956 Denisonian of the student survey that Dr. Scott mentioned. That year, 84 percent of the 41 male and spring 2005

41 female respondents labeled themselves Republican, 5 percent Democrat and 11 percent Independent. Dwight Eisenhower had the support of 94 percent of the group, Adlai Stevenson 4 percent, and 2 percent were undecided. Re.ecting on the results, Managing Editor Al Zambie ‘57 wrote, “Politically speaking, Denison students are as Republican as they can be.”

Feeling Blue, Seeing Red

Great idea doing a political poll. Some of my fellow alums were horri.ed to see 60 percent of Denison students supporting Kerry. I was surprised, even shocked to see only 40 percent supporting Bush. The majority not supporting a Republican? But Denison has always leaned that way. The 1960 student body (though not the faculty) favored Nixon by a wide margin, and I was red-baited for working on the Kennedy campaign. But even then Denison students were generally bright, aware, studious and thoughtful. Assuming that’s still true I would have expected that closer to 100 percent would by now have seen past that hokey Texas image, through the veil of lies that Rove and Cheney have spun for less educated voters, and voted against a New England prep school cheerleader who dodged combat while supporting America’s last misguided war.

Point Reyes Station, California

Refreshing View?

For all of us “oldtimers,” how about an aerial photo or, better yet, a map of the campus as it is today. I haven’t been on the Denison campus since I graduated from the Episcopal seminary at Kenyon College in 1966. Upon seeing the aerial photo of the Campus Commons in the Fall 2004 issue, I realized that I have a time-worn perspective of how it would be situated in relation to the rest of the campus. However, the view from in front of what was the Sigma Chi house down toward the football field and field house (as shown on the back cover) looks the same as I remember it and brings up feelings of nostalgia.

West Linn, Oregon

Great idea, Mr. Staab! Better yet, how does the current campus layout compare to the master plan designed in the early 20th century? Turn to Continuum, page 75, to find out.

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Published November 2010