Students experience debate firsthand

Only a little over 1,000 seats in Magness Arena were filled during the debate by lottery winners, volunteers and campaign members. The arena typically seats 6,000 to 8,000 people. Photo by Ryan Lumpkin.

The first debate of the 2012 presidential election meant much more than a day off class for a group of 270 students selected to watch the debate from inside Magness Arena.

Sophomores Wyeth Seidel and Jordan Rook, along with freshman student Gabrielle Hammer, were among the lucky students admitted.

“It was a truly profound experience,” said Seidel, who sat in the student section, which he described as the middle of the arena.

The first debate to be held in Colorado appeared to be a success, reported both Seidel and Hammer.
“I felt like [DU] dealt with the publicity really well,” said Hammer. “I felt like I was in a safe environment.”

Seidel agrees the university handled the high-pressure situation well.

“The school did a phenomenal job,” said Seidel. “The fact that it went off without a hitch says immense things about the people and students [at DU].”

Both Seidel and Hammer felt their own political views had not been drastically altered after witnessing Obama and Romney hash out their views on a variety of subjects, ranging from taxes to the future of Obamacare.

However, both did agree that the Republican candidate, Romney, exceeded expectations.
“I don’t like calling debate winners,” said Seidel, who acknowledged that most people would likely declare Romney the winner.

Perhaps the only blemish on the event for the students was the moderation. At times, moderator Jim Lehrer appeared to struggle to contain the two candidates and adhere to time limits, according to Seidel.

“The moderation was almost like the NFL replacement refs,” said Seidel. “Jim Lehrer had a tough time controlling the candidates.”

The moderation failed to dampen the debate spirit in Hammer, who said she is excited to see how the remaining debates play out, adding that she expects the election to be an intense battle between the two candidates.

“It was probably the most surreal experience of my life,” said Rook. “I got to see possibly two of the best orators and it was just a fantastic opportunity.”

The experience was a result of a lottery run by the Undergraduate Student Government in which the names were randomly drawn, with each student having been entered once automatically, and additionally for students who attended passport events.

USG notified winners via email, even if they were absent from the drawing. Those who did not respond to the email lost tickets to a secondary drawing on Tuesday.

Dalton is a second-year transfer student from the University of Puget Sound. He is originally from Carbondale, Colorado, where he began his journalism career in middle school, shadowing at a local newspaper. He then wrote for his high school paper, followed by the Puget Sound Trail, and is now a staff writer for the sports section at Clarion.

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