The Conspiracy

Lower tuition… yay! Israel and Iran… meh… [State of the Students]

Everybody and their mother is trying to predict what’s going to happen in the 2012 race to the White House. At New Voices, we’re wondering what college students will vote for. Well, tonight may have given us a hint.

Most college students use their Tuesday night to catch up on homework or party before class-free Wednesday.

At American University in Washington, D.C., its student newspaper (which, by the way, I also work for) The Eagle proclaims, “It’s time for the most anticipated televised event of the year at AU. Nope, not the Super Bowl. It’s the State of the Union!”

AU College Democrats gathered the campus political junkies in The Tavern, AU’s bar-turned-hamburger-and-burrito-joint. As early as half and hour before showtime, students milled about, bought themselves a turkey cheese steak and settled in for President Barack Obama’s sixth statement to a joint session of Congress.

AU’s known to be a pretty liberal campus, so it was not surprising that Obama got a raucous round of applause when he began to give his State of the Union.

But what’s even more interesting is what students didn’t seem to care about. Obama’s celebration of global teamwork to stop Iranian nuclear weaponry, and the subsequent growth of Iranian sanctions, received barely any response from the gathered students. Obama’s mention of support for Israel received only a polite golf clap.

But students were apathetic about more than just the United States’s relationship with Israel. Approval for a clean energy economy and reaction to Obama’s gratitude to American soldiers was tepid at best.

But there were certainly highlights for students watching the president’s address happening only six miles away. Students naturally chuckled (by chuckled, I mean literally laughed out loud) at House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (Republican of Virginia and surprise Jew) visible conniption at Obama’s call for a payroll taxes and First Lady Michelle Obama’s embarrassed reaction to Barack’s joke gone sour.

But when it came to education costs, students came just short of jumping out of their seats in exultation. When Obama said the cost of college was too high, one student, with sarcasm dripping, loudly asked, “Really?”

Everybody else in the room laughed in agreement.

Obama continued to please AU Eagles when he called for more work-study financial aid, demanded lower student loan interest rates and, most importantly, scolded universities for raising tuition too much.

“Let me put colleges and universities on notice: If you can’t stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down,” Obama said.

Students responded in kind with surprised enthusiasm for the Commander in Chief’s hardline against rising tuition, an issue students at AU are all too familiar with.

But students’ passion shone through where they cared. Applause and cheers abounded for:

  • The end of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,
  • Decreasing our debt and “nation building at home,”
  • Continuing American exceptionalism,
  • The creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau,
  • Prevention of another BP oil spill,
  • More bipartisanship in Congress,
  • Equal pay for women,
  • The DREAM ACT and immigration reform
  • And most of all, the death of Osama Bin Laden.

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