CHICAGO – As the results of the primaries came in last night, about 200 University of Chicago students gathered in a student-run coffee shop on the Hyde Park campus to watch a live video feed of ABC News.
Whenever the network projected a win for Sen. Hillary Clinton, about half the room cheered – and the slightly larger other half cheered louder when Sen. Barack Obama was projected to take a state. A Republican projection elicited very little response from the students, but when the announcer gave Alabama to Mike Huckabee, a suspiciously sarcastic round of applause followed. Obama lives in Hyde Park and represented the area in the Illinois State Senate.
Illinois gave Obama one of his largest margins of victory yesterday. He had garnered more than 64 percent of the vote there as of midnight. In Cook County, which includes Chicago, Obama had won 68 percent of the vote last night.
The coffee shop, to the dismay of many students, is called Hallowed Grounds, and on a typical Tuesday night, very few students can be found doing anything but studying there. Although a fair number of students were trading off between watching the news feed and finishing tomorrow’s problem set, most in attendance had their eyes glued to the screen.
Ari Epstein, a freshman from the suburbs of Chicago, has spent time volunteering for the Obama campaign. He said the sheer volume of work assigned to students at the University of Chicago can make staying engaged with politics difficult.
“There’s so much work that people skip meals. Regularly,” he said.
Many students remain engaged in spite of this, Epstein said. The turnout last night illustrates his point – on a campus of about 4,000 undergraduates – many from out of state – 200 is not a negligible portion.
Matt Cohoon, a graduate student, said he really didn’t have time to be there, but couldn’t help stopping by on his way home from class. During class most of the students with laptops were watching the results come in, he said.
But he was not surprised at the turnout last night. Students may skip meals – and sleep – for work, but not this decisive of a political event, he said.