USG holds bipartisan debate watch party

Brooke Forrest

Kent State’s Undergraduate Student Government held a bipartisan final presidential debate watch party with the College Republicans and College Democrats Wednesday night in Bowman Hall.

The groups came together in hopes of getting students out and engaged for the last presidential debate between Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

Almost 200 people attended the televised debate event, according to Keri Richmond, USG director of governmental affairs and senior public relations major.

“I think event was incredible (and had) a great turnout,” Richmond said. “We have so many students who wanted to learn more about what’s happening in this election and learn about the candidates.”

Richmond joked that the free food might have been a big motivator in getting some students to attend. She said, though, that she believed many wanted to get engaged in the election and take part in this bipartisan style event.

“We wanted to provide a friendly space for students to get involved and watch the debate and learn more about the issues in this election and the candidates,” Richmond said. “It’s great to see both Republicans and Democrats come together for a night like this and be so respectful of what their views are.”

Unlike most of the televised debates, the crowd was not discouraged from discussing their opinions or audibly reacting to the debaters responses. Those in attendance frequently voiced their support or disapproval for what the candidates said.

Huge portions of the crowd loudly cheered in support for Clinton’s remarks on protecting abortion rights, and there were also cheers of support for Trump’s proposed border wall and immigration plan.

Both candidates faced scrutiny as well: Clinton received groans from the audience while bringing up WikiLeaks and Russian hackers, while Trump caused laughter when he said, “Nobody has more respect for women than I do. Nobody.”

At times most of the room came together to laugh or express awe at the more unusual statements of the night, including when Trump referred to some illegal immigrants as “bad hombres,” and when the pair discussed Trump’s possible Emmy win.

Jennifer Hutchinson, Kent State College Republicans president and senior political science major, said it was fun to be involved in the bipartisan effort on campus.

“I would say we saw a good healthy mix of Republicans, democrats and everyone in-between so I think that was really good to see,” Hutchinson said. “I saw a lot people cheering for (both) Hillary and Trump.”

Senior history major Brian DiPaolo said he attended the event because he has watched all the prior debates and finds them interesting.

“I think (this) debate went a lot better than the last one, the tone of it was more focused on the issues,” DiPaolo said. “It was just a less negative atmosphere which is really nice and I think the American people just saw a really good comparison of the two options they can have for president of the United States.”

Hana Barkowitz, Kent State College Democrats president and junior public relations major, was pleased with both the debate and event, and hoped that it could help get students engaged and educated.

“I think the event went really well. We had a … great turnout and everyone seemed to be really into it and … interested,” Barkowitz said. “The main goal (of this) I think is to try to get students politically involved. The main problem that college students face is political apathy. That’s one of the worst things. So we really want to get students involved in learning.”

All the organizations involved thought the event successfully brought together students of different parities.

“People always want to say that American people and especially college students are very polarized, and I have found that’s really not that case. So I think it’s really great when we can do events like this that show that we may have differences here and there, but at the end of the day we do share a lot of similarities that can bring us together,” Hutchinson said. “I think this is a great event that can show no matter who you’re voting for and no matter the side of the aisle you are on, it’s really great to see students engaged in their government (and) in their electoral process … if that’s something both groups can promote, then that’s fantastic in my opinion.”

Brooke Forrest is the student politics reporter, contact her at [email protected].