Colby students work the phones on Election Day to get out the vote.
At least on this day, these college students defied the late-sleeper stereotype. The sun had not yet risen in Waterville Nov. 4, and Colby students were walking house to house with door hangers for Obama. “When we showed up in the street … at four-thirty in the morning, there were over a dozen people,” said Amanda Burgess ’10, president of the Colby Democrats.
They may not have been working before dawn on other days, but scores of Colby students spent countless hours on the Obama campaign. Some started in the summer; many more when school started in September. They worked five, 10, 20 hours a week. As the election drew closer, that became 20, 30, 40 hours a week. “It was pretty much a job,” said Burgess.
They planned rallies, organized voter registration drives, knocked on doors. An estimated 150 students volunteered in some capacity, but not just once—over and over, say campus leaders. “Election Day you’re always going to have people who want to help get out the vote,” said Patrick Boland ’09, an Obama intern. “But you’re not going to have that for two sustained months prior, people canvassing on the weekends, people phone banking every night.” This year was the exception.
Then it all stopped.
On Nov. 5, a lot of Colby students didn’t know what to do with themselves. “Everyone got so into the campaign, and so amped up, that we were just all kind of lost afterwards,” said John Campbell ’09, who led the Obama Campus Coalition for Change at Colby.
What would they do with all this time? Some got sick. Most caught up on sleep. Television made a comeback in their lives. But overwhelmingly the volunteers realized it was time to get back to academics. “That was the big thing, was actually catching up on schoolwork—which many of us have yet to do,” said Campbell almost a month later, on the eve of final exam period.
It was worth it, they say, and they will do it again. “It’s hard not to get involved in campaigns once you already have been involved in the past, because it’s just—it’s so addicting,” said Boland.
Ala Solsvig ’11, director of on-campus services for the Colby Republicans, agrees. “It’s fun to feel that you’re contributing to something bigger,” she said. “You’re a Republican soldier, kind of.”
The Republican effort on campus was smaller than that of the Democrats, but the officers of the Colby Republicans and a couple of others volunteered consistently, especially with phone banking. Solsvig estimates she spent about 40 hours prior to Nov. 4 canvassing and working the phones. “Frankly, this year I’d say that by and large Republicans were out-organized,” said Solsvig. She attributes this to a disparity in financial resources.