Students Gather to Watch Presidential Debate

Kate Preziosi

Last Tuesday, approximately 300 Colgate students filed in Donovan’s Pub for the Presidential Debate Watching Party, many choosing to stand after seats grew scarce. The event was hosted by ALANA Cultural Center, in collaboration with Theta Chi, Democracy Matters and Student Association for Voter Empowerment (SAVE). Students began filing into the Pub an hour before the debate aired to enjoy a barbeque dinner catered by Oddfellows. The first 250 in attendance received free T-shirts for Generation Vote.

Over the summer Shevorne Martin ’08, the Outreach Programming Coordinator for ALANA, contacted leaders from the politically active groups on campus to put together a unified coalition for promoting student interest in this year’s election. The coalition is called Colgate Votes 2008, and with less than a month until Election Day, it is busy registering students and hosting events like this one to encourage political interest on campus. Some of the student organizations involved are Democracy Matters, SAVE, the College Republicans and Democrats and the Greek community.

As the debate officially kicked-off at 9 p.m. on CNN, moderator Tom Brokaw assured his television audience that those in attendance had agreed to be polite, with no cheering or outbursts.

“Those of you at home, of course, are not so constrained,” he said, drawing laughter and agreement from the crowd at Donovan’s.

While the primary sponsors are non-partisan, the political leanings in the room were very clear for many students in attendance. Junior Abby Byrne noted that the crowd in Donovan’s was “very democratic leaning.”

“There was an effort to be non-partisan, which was unsuccessful,” Byrne said. “It was still a great event though, and it definitely brought people together on campus to talk about the election. Events like these are so important since our age group is going to be very influential in this election.”

The debate was often tense, with most of the questions concerning the economic climate. Each senator repeatedly went over his time limit in order to refute claims laid by his opponent.

“Stick to the time limit please, or we’ll have a larger deficit than the U.S. government,” Brokaw said, reminding the candidates of the rules they agreed to for the debate.

There were select few at the party who openly supported Senator McCain. Among them is junior Regan Corr, who found the experience of being a political minority very interesting.

“The students who came out definitely had Democratic tendencies,” she said. “I would be interested to know if they are an accurate representation of political leanings on this campus, or if maybe the Republicans in the room just weren’t being as vocal. But the event was great. I would have loved it if there had been a student follow-up discussion following the debate to see how everybody felt about what they heard.”

Democracy Matters had a table set up at the event, and distributed a sheet among the students detailing where both candidates stood on money in politics. Co-leader and junior Sarah Finn was very encouraged by the high turnout.

“It was so great to see how many people were interested in watching the debate,” Finn said. “I think this election season has definitely provoked student interest in politics, and I just hope we can use this momentum and carry it beyond November 4th.”

Colgate Votes 2008 is still registering voters and providing applications for absentee ballots.