By Kelly Durso
In a mod on the fourth floor of Smith House on South Green students got together to watch the first of three presidential debates last week. They ate pizza, joked about the candidates, and got ready to discuss the importance of this year's election. This wasn't just a meeting of the minds; this was the first program in the National Residence Hall Election Program.
The National Residence Hall Election Program, the brain-child of University senior William Tarter, Jr., is a nationwide initiative to encourage political action in the dorms. Tarter, a resident assistant and organizational communications major, got the idea for the program back in the summer.
"I actually spoke to two other RAs in my complex to see if they wanted to do it along with me," Tarter says. "Then I thought, 'What if all of Ohio University did it and then I was like what if we did every RA across the country?'"
Tarter contacted Dan Oltersdorf, owner of ResidentAssistant.com, and together they created a Web site to let RAs know how they can get involved. The response has been overwhelming with more than a hundred universities participating in the program.
"It's gotten like a monster, it's huge and I love it," said Tarter.
The basic idea behind the National Residence Hall Election Program was to increase voter turn out and political awareness for those between the ages of 18-24 years. RAs and their residents watch the debate together and then afterwards discuss their reactions to the candidates.
Tarter credits his parents for getting him involved in politics at a young age. "My dad was a high school teacher for 30 years and in the past, we would always discuss how education is consistently put on the back burner."
Education needs to become more of a priority for the nation and hopes that students will start to care as well, Tarter says.
Tarter doesn't know what's going to happen after this program or if the success will create more activities and dialogue. "My goal is to make sure my residents are aware of where each candidate stands on the issues," he says.
For more information on the National Residence Hall Election Program, visit www.ResidentAssistant.com.
Kelly Durso is a student writer for Communications and Marketing.