WMU News

NY Times selects WMU students for debate focus group

Oct. 15, 2004

KALAMAZOO--As part of its national coverage of the 2004 presidential election, the New York Times sent a veteran political reporter to Kalamazoo Oct. 13 to watch the final debate between President George W. Bush and Sen. John Kerry with 16 students from Western Michigan University and Kalamazoo College.

The resulting news story appears in today's issue of the paper and may be found online at <www.nytimes.com>.

Representatives from the Times assembled the focus group of college students in WMU's Lee Honors College. The participating students, eight of whom were from WMU, discussed their views before and after the debate with chief correspondent R.W. Apple Jr.

Participating in the focus group from WMU were Britne Amos of Glenwood, Ill.; Jarred Araujo of Manton, Mich.; Tristan Brown of Franklin, Mich.; Joel DeLorge of Comstock, Mich.; Tena Feenstra of Portage, Mich.; Erin Kenzie of Plymouth, Mich.; Talat Mangla of Portage, Mich.; and Chelsea Tirrell of Charlotte, Mich.

Dr. John Martell, assistant dean of the Lee Honors College, said Apple worked comfortably with the students and showed an impressive acuity, memory, and ability to create varied questions that penetrated to the essence of the issues presented to the presidential debaters.

"Our students demonstrated themselves to be of the highest caliber as they responded with thoughtful, insightful and sometimes spirited answers," Martell added. "This was a group of highly talented, young voters for whom the complex and vexing issues of war, race, poverty, education, health care and environment really matter."

The diverse group was asked several questions, ranging from party positions and impressions of the candidates to domestic and international issues. But Martell said the atmosphere that developed during the course of the evening was devoid of the strife that has characterized so much of modern politics.

"There was a wonderful degree of respect and civility. Our students presented their points of view with energy and conviction, true, but without acrimony, rancor or disparagement of others," he said. "I had the sense of an unstated current, where they all understood that what really mattered was a better world, and that we would have to work together to achieve it. There was much to be proud of in these young people--and perhaps, a real lesson to be learned from them for all of us."

Kalamazoo College is a private liberal arts school with an enrollment of nearly 1,300 students. Its campus adjoins the main campus of WMU in Kalamazoo, where the two schools have been neighbors for more than 100 years.

Media contact: Jeanne Baron, 269 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

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