2016 Presidential Debate through the eyes of Cabrini and Hofstra

By Angelina Miller
October 4, 2016

Students at presidential debate at Hofstra University.
Students at presidential debate at Hofstra University.

From tax justice, to living wages, to democracy, healthcare and citizenship, it was expected that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump would share their perspectives on multiple topics over the ninety minute period of the first presidential debate on Monday, Sept. 6, 2016.  

Two perspectives that were not given in the debate or discussed in just about any timely articles published by popular news outlets are those of college students. This includes students that watch the debate from their dorm with friends, at a viewing party, and those that are ever so fortunate to experience the event in person on their own university campus.

On Monday, Sept. 26th, 2016, as the two final presidential candidates took the stage for the first debate of the 2016 election, over 80 million people tuned in, making it the most watched debate in American history.

Of those millions of people, a group of Cabrini students gathered in the lecture hall of the Iadarola building. With pizza, snacks, pens and notebooks, they were all eager to see Clinton and Trump go head to head. Tom Southard, the director of Cabrini’s Wolfington Center, also provided a creative and witty bingo game to spice things up.

Every student at the viewing party received a bingo sheet with statements that the candidates might frequently say throughout the debate on it.

“Every time Trump said ‘Mexican,’ you got an X. If Hillary referenced being a grandma, you got to mark a spot,” sophomore biology major Bianca Santos, who attended the event, said.

“I am really happy I went to the viewing party,” Santos said. “It was really informative, but fun at the same time. It also definitely helped me gather my thoughts on who I want to vote for, especially since I have not watched any debates before this one.”

Outside of Iadarola, multiple other students all across Cabrini’s campus met up in lounges, dorms and apartments to watch the debate together.

“One of the best things about watching the debates in college is being able to gather with your friends about what is bound to be something historical, regardless of political ideologies,” Samantha Murry, senior history, English and political science major said.

“I have really enjoyed watching the debates with my friends,” Matt Harshberger, senior history and political science major, said. “It is always good to come together and discuss the issues among your peers and open your mind to other points of view.”

Meanwhile, one hundred and thirty miles away from Cabrini, students at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, were lucky enough to have the debate take place at their home away from home. Student Abby Strusowski, a sophomore journalism major and former writer for the Hofstra Chronicle, shared her personal experience on being up close and personal to this historical event.

“When I moved back onto campus in early September, there were already debate 2016 posters and flyers posted on every campus lamp post and all around the area. All of the real preparation started this past weekend though.

On Thursday, four days before the debate, the school closed down multiple parking lots on campus for the stages that belonged to Fox News, C-Span, CNN and MSNBC. Parking became a huge issue for students, but being able to look around the broadcast plaza made up for it. The filming began Sunday night and my friends and I actually made it on CNN and MSNBC!

In addition to that perk, there were also endless free things given away on campus beginning Monday morning; this included shirts, buttons and other debate accessories. There was a white house bouncy house as well which was fun even for a college student.

One of the things that made this all so real to life though was actually getting see Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump get dropped off at the debate directly in what is my daily route of walking to my dining hall. How cool is that?

When it came to attending the debate itself, Hofstra actually offered a student ticket lottery. While I was initially upset that I did not get picked for it, I felt a bit better after hearing how students that went had to be ready several hours before the debate started just to go through security.

Viewing parties began all around campus about two hours before the debate aired. Along with some friends, I made the most of the night by going to a screening at Hofstra USA, our campus diner. There was singing, free food and lots of enthusiastic students.

Overall, I really still cannot get over how the debate was actually held at my school. Despite the fact that Hofstra already housed presidential debates in 2008 and 2012, I felt very fortunate to have the opportunity to experience this part of our history up close in 2016. I would be lying if I said I was sad to hear that Wright University in Ohio dropped out of holding the debate back in July!”

Watch the video below to get a true inside look at this event at Hofstra University, with photos taken by Strusowski during the days leading up to and the day of the debate.

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Angelina Miller

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