Carleton College's student newspaper since 1877

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Carleton students, professor gather to watch Presidential debate

< Friday night at Carleton, students can be found relaxing, going out with friends, and participating in political discussions. September 26, kicked off the series of debates between presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama. Students turned out in numbers for a viewing sponsored by Campus Activities. The event took place in Boliou and included a large screen, snacks, and a post-debate discussion led by Political Science professor Al Montero.

T. Todd Masman, the new Director of Campus Activities, explained that the office is hosting the debate viewings as “part of our commitment to civic engagement and student learning,” and added that he hopes the office is seen as a “conduit for creating a space for students to be a part of the national conversation during a presidential election year.” Student political groups were invited to take part, and some showed up to assist with voter registration. Andrew BoddySpargo, a senior Political Science major, came to watch the debate because he finds the sense of community appealing and thinks that “it’s important to make political events into social events so that we can have a dialogue where ideas are presented and critiqued.”

The seats in Boliou were full about 15 minutes before the start of the debate, and Masman scrambled to find an overflow room after all available space in the aisle, along the walls and in the back of the room, was full. He estimates that about 175 students showed up to watch between the two rooms. The debate itself lasted from 8pm to 9:30 pm, and questions and comments with Montero continued for over an hour after. About 30 students were still in attendance when the discussion finally wound down around 10:45pm.

Montero began by discussing the goals and outcomes of televised presidential debates, saying that historically the debates have accounted for very little movement in the polls since the vast majority of the audience is already decided. The main point of the debates, he explained, is to create an image; therefore, the candidates’ mannerisms and occasional witty “zingers” tend to leave more of an impression than the debate’s main content. Neither McCain nor Obama made what Montero calls a “slam-dunk comment,” and the general consensus seemed to be that this debate won’t be a highly memorable one. Montero also made the point that most polling companies don’t call cell phones and consequently miss getting an accurate picture of the young vote leading up to the election.

Masman was satisfied with the event, saying that “for one of our first events of the school year, it was great to have so many students in attendance” – especially on a Friday night. Campus Activities will be hosting viewings for the remaining three debates, one of which took place last night between the vice presidential candidates, October 7, and October 15, and the office is hoping to confirm an overflow room in advance for these events. Bigger venues are available, but most aren’t an option because they can’t show a cable TV feed.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Carletonian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *