USD gets down and dirty with the debate

debateStudents and faculty at the University of San Diego filled the Hahn University Center’s Frank’s Lounge and Forum B as they anxiously awaited the historic first presidential debate of 2016. The rooms were at capacity as the USD community watched Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton debate. Students and faculty were sitting on the floor and standing around the perimeter of the room in anticipation of the event.

USD Votes, an organization on campus that educates and encourages students to get registered and involved in this year’s election, hosted the event. USD Votes was established last semester by students and spearheaded by Casey Dominguez, an associate professor in the political science department.

The hosts provided pizza for students to enjoy as they watched the debate and had a table setup for students to register to vote. They also provided more information about the voting process.

As students settled in their seats, many chatted among themselves about what they expected to hear and see. Junior Scott Develle expressed the topics he was hoping the candidates would debate.

“I want to hear their stance on […] immigration, abortion, and gay marriage,” Develle said. “I anticipate a lot of banter because there’s a lot of friction between the two candidates.”

Sophomore Ashley Brown said she was attending the event because of its historical significance.

“It is a pretty big moment in history,” Brown said. “It’s getting really heated and interesting. I just want to keep up with what’s going on and don’t want to be out of the loop.”

Sophomore Emilio Romero explained his neutral stance on viewing the debate.

“I am currently undecided at the moment, and I’m coming here with an open mind,” Romero said. “I am looking for multiple things a candidate will say that I can agree with. I hope to see a candidate that I can see being the future leader of our country.”

Junior Tamar Tellado expressed that she wanted to get more involved with politics.

“I feel like I have not been really engaged in the election lately or politics in general,” Tellado said. “I feel like this would be a good place to start. I’m looking for anything to tip me one way or the other because I really have no idea how I am going to vote in this election.”

Senior Lauren Delfin said she is watching the debate because of her appreciation for politics.

“Politics is something that really interests me, and I feel like it is really important for people to get involved in,” Delfin said. “I don’t really know what to expect, but I hope to get a better understanding of their platforms. But I’m not quite sure what it will look like for each of the candidates to be president. I’m not too sure who I want to vote for, but I have an idea of who I do not want to vote for.”

As the debate unfolded, students were enthralled in the political rhetoric. Some whispered to their friends, others booed and cheered as candidates exchanged jabs and established their stance on issues. Overall, students remained invested in what the candidates were saying.

After the debate students weighed in with their opinions of how the debate went.

As a prospective political science student, freshman Zion Lashua expressed that the debate had its highs and lows.

“A lot of it was about emails, bankruptcy, business models,” Lashua said. “And a lot of the time, candidates didn’t discuss the issues and got off topic of the questions that were actually asked, as well as putting down the other candidate and elevating themselves. There were some points where there was civil discussion, and I really enjoyed that, but I look forward to hearing what they say in other debates.”

Sophomore Megan McDonald stated that she had mixed feelings about the debate.

“I think the most interesting part of the debate, in terms of what I think the media will be in favor and not in favor of Trump and Clinton, [is] specifically the race debate,” McDonald said. “It seemed to me a lot throughout the debate [that] Trump, as much as he was saying he [supports]police, and he was saying law and order, I think the biggest soundbite the media will pick up is the ‘stop-and-frisk.’ Clinton was right: it was ruled unconstitutional. So I think that is going to be up for a lot of debate through the media. I think when it came to jobs, Trump is going to be seen in the limelight. He hit it hard more confidently than Clinton did. I didn’t really see there was a clear [consensus] of who would be more prepared. There didn’t seem to be a clear feeling in the room [of] ‘This is who we are going to pick, and we feel good about it.’”

Senior Marguerite Lehman seemed satisfied with the debate and the candidates’ demeanour.

“The debate went better than I thought it would be,” Lehman said. “Both candidates presented more prepared versions of themselves. It was more substantive than I was expecting. I don’t think I learned anything too substantive with their policies but [with] their character.”

When the debate ended, many students stayed behind to discuss the debate with friends. Others participated in a question and answer with USD professor Mary Brinson, who teaches a course in political communication, and Dominguez, who helped host the event.

Brinson observed that many students had varying perceptions after watching the same event take place.

“People that are already identifying with one side, are likely to engage in selective perception, they are going to see/hear what they want to see/hear. From the undecided students that spoke out tonight, one stated that she thought they were both liars, while another said they both showed their best sides. In general, debates are not going to change anyone’s mind, but they can move undecided voters in one direction or another,”

It is unclear which direction the voters will be swayed after the first debate because there was not a unanimous consensus on who won.

Some contributors on CNN and FOX News, such as David Gergen, Errol Louis, Frida Ghitis, Bernard Goldberg, Ben Shapiro, and Bill Kristol agreed Clinton won the debate. They attribute Clinton’s win to carefully crafted arguments and facts, even stating that some of her remarks were damaging toward Trump’s campaign. Ghitis explained that she believed that Clinton had the upper hand at the debate, especially when she drew attention to Trump’s desire to arm countries with nuclear weapons.

Other contributors such as Timothy Stanley, and Michael Hirsh, who weighed in on CNN and FOX, agree that Trump stumbled in some areas but think he ultimately ended victorious. Stanley said he believed that Trump took the victory because he seemed to understand the   format of the debate.

Dominguez echoed some students’ reactions, explaining that the debate covered substantial topics.

“I was afraid there wouldn’t be any substance to it, so I was pleasantly surprised at how much substance there was,” Dominguez said. “It is up to individual voters to figure out whether they were comfortable by what they saw or their predispositions were confirmed. The few who were here seemed to say they haven’t changed their minds by what they were watching.”

It is clear that students on campus are interested in this year’s election. Programs like USD Votes are working diligently to inform students about the candidates and future political events on campus.


Written by Jennifer Givens, Asst. Feature Editor