Hofstra’s student body absorbs impact of a Presidential debate
By Brianna Ciniglio and Nandee Mignon
Hofstra was given the opportunity to host the first presidential debate after Wright State University backed out in July. The school graciously accepted the offer, and, overall, the student body was grateful that their school would have a part in this monumental election. What they weren’t grateful for were the inconveniences to student life that came along with the package.
One of the biggest concerns for club leaders at the beginning of the semester was allocating a room for their club activities. Rooms were being taken up by media outlets and university relations as early as the first week of the semester. The large presence of the debate on campus, well before September 26, proved difficult for these club leaders.
“A lot of the spaces around the student center that are commonly used by student organizations had to be converted into debate prep,” Colin Sullivan, Director of Communications for Student Affairs, said.
For a number of organizations, this meant they had to delay their club meetings and events.
“I tried to get a room for Monday nights in the student center, but when I went to pick rooms they were all full for the debate prep,” Marialena Rago, president of She’s the First, said. “It was difficult so I ended up having my meeting three weeks late and on a Wednesday on the academic side.”
The debate added unforeseen stress that some students experienced once they returned to campus. With the debate being so close to home, it caused many students and faculty members to showcase what political party and issues they supported and also the ones they deemed unworthy. With such controversial candidates, this caused anxiety among students.
“I feel uncomfortable and scared to some extent because of some of the racial comments some Trump supporters were yelling at us,” Keiyonia Williams, a senior Business Administration major, said after an incident she experienced earlier that week.
On the other end of the spectrum, Damien Moore, a junior criminology major said the presence of “a liar who deserves to be sent to jail” angered him and made him feel unsettled in a place where he “pays to feel safe and comfortable.”
Another initial concern of taking on the debate was the conflict with the date of Hofstra’s Fall Festival, which was originally scheduled to be September 23 and 24, the weekend before the debate.
“We realized that because of the footprint that [the] secret service has, that the police department has and the natural role of Fall Festival that this couldn’t happen two days apart,” said Sullivan. “We absolutely wanted to have a rocking concert for our student body so we decided to move it back to October.”
The new dates for Fall Fest are October 7 and 8.
The shuttle services provided through Hofstra’s Public Safety office have been problematic for students in the past, but especially so during the days leading up to the debate.
Forrest Gitlin, a senior political science student, along with other Hofstra students, missed the train into the city on the Friday, Sept. 23, because the shuttle arrived ten minutes late. He and the other students reached out to public safety, who said that the delay was caused by the debate and that they would not help the students left at Hempstead station find an alternative way to get into the city.
The delay caused Gitlin to arrive at his internship ten minutes late.The Hofstra senior does not believe that the debate was a fair excuse for the shuttle being delayed.
“The university prepared a special schedule to factor in the debate and the traffic that would accompany it,” Gitlin said.
When it comes to large and timely repairs, Hofstra is known for communicating well with its students and faculty, and provided a close to accurate time schedule of when the repairs are to begin and end. However, this school year presented itself a little differently. With Hofstra jumping on the opportunity to host the first presidential debate this past Monday, it caused “all hands on deck” to report to “debate duty”: A great deal of the school’s resources, staff and donated money were placed towards the debate. This caused things for the debate to run smoothly and according to schedule, but it caused an inconvenience to students.
Colonial Square, one of the larger residential sections on campus, were schedule for specific building upgrades: New AC/Heating units, updated tile/counter work in bathrooms and an upgrade lounge with all new appliances and electronics.
“With such a prime opportunity presented to us, administration had to make a tough call by pushing back some of these repairs,”said W. Houston Dougharty, vice president for student affairs. “But we truly feel as though this debate brought along many opportunities and experiences for students, that the repairs having to take a back seat ended up being worth it.”
Making it All Come Together
Despite the obstacles students faced, the debate also provided students with a number of opportunities.
“A lot of [the programs were] going to be politically themed because we’re in an election year,” said Sullivan. “Naturally some of [them] fit into the speaker series for the debate. The other programs were already promoted to the students and community so we did feel it was unfair to change it, so no programs were dropped.”
Students were also given the opportunity to volunteer and get involved at the debate.
“These are not only really engaging, cool opportunities, but they’re previews of the careers you could have to hold,” Sullivan said.
— Melissa Cooke (@melisscooke) September 27, 2016
Sullivan stated that his particular department of student affairs always has the students in mind. “Speaking for myself as the Director of Communications for Student Affairs, the students come first,” Sullivan said. “That’s a theme around our university, but specifically within my division… We get to look at the debate through the lens of improving the student experience.”