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Representatives of fictional West Europa's political parties debate.
Representatives of fictional West Europa's political parties debate.
PHOTO: BY RICHARD MAASS '12

Students Participate in Semester-Long Campaign Simulation: Elections in West Europa

By Richard Maass '12  |  Contact Holly Foster 315-859-4068
Posted December 3, 2009
Tags Government Sharon Rivera
Questions flew and tensions flared Wednesday evening in the Science Center’s Kennedy Auditorium as the students of Government 112 participated in the culmination of a semester of arduous effort. Under the guidance of Associate Professor of Government Sharon Rivera, students enrolled in the Comparative Politics courses realized the fruits of their labors as the “Simulated Election Campaign in the Country of West Europa” unfolded. The simulation’s debate was the finale of the semester-long project.

Divided into six political parties within the fictitious nation of West Europa, the students of Government 112 take on the roles of various party officials and simulate an actual political campaign. From drafting a party platform, to creating a televised campaign ad, to preparing for and conducting a mock election debate, Rivera’s students learn the intricacies and unique skills necessary to carry out a political campaign from beginning to end. “It forces you to think about politics through a different lens,” says Beau Brians ’13. Randomly assigned a political party to represent, students often find themselves advocating views and stances that greatly differ from what they personally believe. Rivera’s students assert that this unique experience forces them to think critically and logically construct valid arguments through the use of reason rather than personal bias.

The six Party Leaders had to not only think analytically about policy issues Wednesday evening, but also on their feet as they found themselves facing difficult questions posed by each other and the audience as well. Covering policy issues ranging from foreign relations to the environment to the economy, party leaders skillfully articulated their respective party’s stance on various topics through both opening and closing statements, and devised impromptu answers for whatever questions classmates tossed their way.

A panel of appointed judges assessed the overall performance of Party Leaders during the debate, based on the criteria of organization, development of argument, improvisation, closure, presentation and preparedness. While the panel determined both the winner and runner-up for the simulation’s debate, the audience also submitted a popular vote.

While orating a fictitious political party’s economic policy before an auditorium packed with ready critics and a panel of judges seems daunting, the amount of preparation and labor put forth by the other members of each group in order to reach the debate is just as impressive. Party Policy Experts draft a party platform with the aid of a Party Secretary, which Rivera publishes in a brochure distributed at the actual debate. Press secretaries design party logos and film campaign ads with the aid of Burke Library’s MPC staff and Janet Simons. Party secretaries submit weekly updates and minutes of group meetings to Rivera, keeping her informed on the progress of the group.

After an impressive display of each party’s policies and well articulated arguments, Wednesday’s debate ended in the People’s Coalition, under the leadership of Brandon Moore ’12, claiming victory with the Nationalist Party under the guidance of Colin Chapin ’12 coming in a close second. The popular vote resulted in a three-way tie which largely reflected the view of the judges, with the Free Market Innovation Party making its way to the top with the previously named parties. The Conservative People’s Party, Conscientious Party and the West European Equality Party put forth a valiant effort as well, though unfortunately found the cards stacked against them.
The simulation itself, the brainchild of Professor Rivera, came to fruition five years ago when she decided to create a semester-long project that would expose students to the internal workings of a political party during the course of a campaign.

Originally using Germany as the country in which the simulation took place, Rivera created the fictitious country of West Europa to force students to devise their own policies and articulate their own stances on various issues. “I’m sincerely pleased with the quality of preparation and dedication displayed by the students,” said Rivera. “The simulation allows the students to accrue a unique set of skills,” she explained.

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