On this year’s election night, the Harvard News Office cast its staff of writers and photographers out over the University to serve as witnesses. From the Kennedy School to the Queen’s Head pub, they recorded on notebook and film the tension, the growing enthusiasm, and the final nearly ecstatic pandemonium that marked this historic occasion. Here are their reports.
On a historic day when officials were predicting record voter turnout across the nation, Harvard students and faculty gathered excitedly to watch election returns. Expectations were high for not only a victory by Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, a Harvard Law School graduate, but also for a new era in American politics.
Students all across the campus were caught up in the moment. “It’s like watching all my favorite teams play at once,” said Malcolm Rivers ’09 of Dunster House. Rivers was one of at least 80 people who by 8:30 p.m. had crowded into the Cambridge Queen’s Head at Loker Commons. The pub in the basement of Memorial Hall was reserved for the night by the Harvard Black Students Association and the Black Pre-Law Association.
Early on at the Queen’s Head, a sampling of hip-hop music gave way to the sounds from four big-screen TVs tuned to CNN. At 8:30, CNN called New Hampshire for Obama, bringing on the night’s first big burst of noise. Nine minutes later, the network put Pennsylvania into the Obama column, setting off an outpouring of screams and shouts.
Across campus at the Harvard Kennedy School, students, faculty, and staff gathered to watch returns on the big screen in the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum. Cheers went up as CNN projected states for Obama, and continued as the Democrat’s lead built.
In the freshmen dorms, Harvard College Dean Evelynn Hammonds and Dean of Freshmen Thomas Dingman toured election night parties that were in full swing. The deans checked in on common rooms full of excited students feasting on cake, chips, and soda as they watched returns.
At Harvard Law School, the office of Dean of Students Ellen Cosgrove sponsored a bipartisan election event in the Harkness Commons. At the Law School, as elsewhere on the campus, most students clearly fell into the Obama camp. The Harvard Crimson’s Election Survey reported that nearly 80 percent of Harvard students planned to vote for Obama.
“It’s one of those common cultural experiences that you can share with everyone,” said LLM student Jonathan Darrow.
“It’s an amazing time,” said first-year law student Alana Greer, who was impressively dressed in a red dress and a blue belt with a big white buckle. “I really wanted to be a part of it and to tell my grandchildren I was part of the change.”