Feb. 18, 2008
CONTACT: Gordon Ovenshine
Rock students place as finalists in multi-state competition
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Slippery Rock University students grabbed two of the five finalist rankings at the Allegheny College and The New York Times Presidential Primary Reform Conference. The competition, staged at Allegheny College, asked students from universities in Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York and New Hampshire to suggest a plan for reforming the presidential primaries. Finalist is the highest rank possible.
Twelve SRU students competed in the one-day conference, in conjunction with a four-week online course offered via The New York Times Knowledge Network. Students explored past changes with the nominating process and suggested possible reforms for the 2012 election.
"They sure do produce students with innovative notions (at Slippery Rock University)," said author Jane Eisner, vice president of programs at the National Constitution Center, who wrote a national column on the conference. "One group offered a complex plan that would use the lever of free television and public financing to create, as they say, a 'more democratic selection process than presently exists.'"
Eisner, a former city hall bureau chief and editorial page editor for The Philadelphia Inquirer, said, "I was most enchanted by another Slippery Rock plan to shorten the primary calendar and rotate the order of the states based on voter participation in the previous presidential election. What a novel idea."
"Our students just worked so hard. They came up with amazing ideas for shortening the process to a 10-week period," said Heather Frederick, an SRU assistant professor of political science who coached one of the teams. "They did all the research, really thought about it, and really care about what our political process should look like."
"In the simulcast that was broadcast across the country on The New York Times Knowledge Network, Slippery Rock University was mentioned twice in terms of the ideas that our teams came up with, said Sharon Sykora, an SRU associate professor of political science faculty member who coached the other team.
Grievances about the current primary system include the length, the perception that they favor Iowa, New Hampshire and other early states, and differences in how the candidates from the two major political parties accumulate delegates, Frederick said.
Her students, calling themselves The Elite Eight, developed "The Voter Empowerment Solution" that impressed Eisner. It calls for shortening the primary election calendar to 10 weeks and scheduling the state primaries based on voter turnout from the last presidential primaries. The state with the highest percentage turnout would hold the first primary, giving residents added incentive to vote.
"Young voters would feel less apathy and powerlessness," Frederick said.
Students teaming with Sykora developed "The Preferred Pennsylvania Plan." This plan would rotate regional primaries to provide more fairness to voters of states that are not among the first few primaries.
The SRU teams were two of 17 college teams that pitched proposals as part of the competition. Five teams were selected as finalists; the two teams from SRU and one each from the University of Akron, Cleveland State University and Allegheny College.
Students on SRU's Elite Eight team are Ryan Ambrose of Greensburg, Paul DiTomasso of Bethelem, Diana Hafera of Freeport, Tyler Heckathorn of Hermitage, Marios Kritiotis of Pittsburgh, Ryan McGregors of Rimersburg, Alex McNeill of Pulaski and Scott Stepanovich of Greensburg. Sykora's team consisted of Jessica Cosme of Butler, Steven Barb of New Brighton, Seth Sykora-Bodie of Harrisville and Kendra Mundell of New Castle. All of the students are political science majors or minors.
Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.