Public relations and political communication senior Antonio Guevara first approached Carissa Kelley, the current president of the Student Events Center, with the idea for Decision 2012 last year. The Student Events Center is the arm of the University Unions that puts on programming for students.
Guevara wanted to put on an “epically huge” Election Night watch party, public relations senior Kelley said. Kelley liked the idea. She envisioned a screen in front of the Tower to broadcast election results and a party on the Main Mall in which all major campus organizations from every cultural and political group would take part.
The event, called Decision 2012, will take place Tuesday in the Student Activities Center Ballroom, but it will not be the campus-wide party that Guevara and Kelley originally imagined. When they approached partisan political groups like University Democrats and College Republicans, they found that those groups, like many others, wanted to watch the election individually at events that were openly partisan.
When Kelly and Guevara couldn’t bridge the divide between political parties, they turned to bridging cultures. The watch party may not be truly campus-wide, but it will be an event that brings together students from the African American Culture Committee, the Asian American Culture Committee, the Black Student Alliance and Longhorn League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), to name a few of the many participating organizations.
“It really turned into a minority-driven thing, and I think everyone’s happy with the way that it turned out,” Kelley said.
The event will “make sure the campus has a place that is multicultural and nonpartisan for students to watch the election,” said Chelsea Jones, a journalism sophomore and chair of the African American Culture Committee, which like the Asian American Culture Committee and the Mexican American Culture Committee, is a subset of the Student Events Center that deals with cultural programming.
Although an election watch party certainly can’t ignore politics, the organizers of Decision 2012 have attempted to make the event engaging and celebratory rather than divisive. The event will feature three screens, two of which will show live election coverage. The central screen will show a live Twitter feed. Event attendees will be told a hash tag (tentatively #Decision2012UT) as they walk in the door and will be encouraged to tweet questions they have about the election or the election coverage. These questions will be answered via Twitter by the event’s organizers.
If attendees want to show their political affiliations, one wall will be covered with a large piece of butcher paper divided into sections for the Democratic, Republican, Libertarian and Green parties. Students may sign their name on the paper to show support for their party or submit an anonymous pre-cut “handprint” to be taped to the wall under their party’s name.
“Something I always wanted to do was blend the cultures here on campus,” Guevara said. “It’s a very minority-heavy event, but at the end of the day, this is the first event of its kind [at UT], at least since I’ve been here, and I’m going on my fifth year ... but what we’re all hoping is that we’re kind of laying the foundation for more events like this, so you don’t just have to come together for the watch party, and it’s not just centered around minority groups. [The whole campus] can come together like this any time of the year.”
Printed on Tuesday, November 6, 2012 as: Watch party unites cultures