It’s not uncommon for a Bradley event to be scarcely attended. The words “apathetic” and “indifferent” are thrown around a lot in describing the student body, and while that does not apply to every student on this campus, the stereotype exists for a reason.
Whether that perception comes from the empty seats our athletic teams play for or the lack of apparent political polarity that is common at other universities, Bradley’s student body does not often challenge that image.
But the crowd that turned up for presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s speech Monday did just that. Media coverage about the speech, with headlines like NPR’s “Romney drilled on social issues at Illinois rally” and Chicago Tribune’s “Romney gets tough questions from college students,” focused on questions from the crowd involving free birth control and Planned Parenthood funding. But what surprised us was not just the atmosphere of the crowd–which was made up mostly of students–but the fact that there was a crowd of students at all. And we weren’t the only ones to take notice.
In a column titled “Remainders from Romney Visit,” Chris Kaergard of the Peoria Journal Star said, “…I must admit, being a product of Bradley and having resisted the sometimes-apathetic ways of many in the student body, I too was quite pleased to see students come out to watch the candidate.”
It was especially surprising that not only did the students show up, but after the speech, clusters of them hung around Bradley Hall, speaking to each other about their opinions on Romney’s presentation.
There were cheers, applause and occasional boos throughout the event, but the crowd was, by and large, welcoming and respectful of Romney.
There is a perception that many BU students lean conservative, which may have aided in the positive crowd atmosphere Monday evening. But the crowd also proved itself to be a mixed bag when we and other media outlets interviewed students about their thoughts on the presentation.
Whatever their political beliefs, which were scattered throughout the political spectrum, most students agreed that bringing a presidential candidate to campus was a worthwhile experience, something they would remember. And even if they don’t plan on voting republican in the 2012, the students interviewed said they showed up, if nothing else, because it was a big deal for Bradley and the Peoria community.
It was refreshing to see that kind of turnout and interest among the student body because it showed students wanted to be a part of something so monumental in Bradley’s history. Hosting the event in the heart of campus was also a plus for student attendance, something the university should consider for the future.
Stereotypes aside, we think Bradley should continue to strive to bring high-caliber figures, political or otherwise, to campus. Given the opportunity, we think the “apathetic” student body will show up.