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Oct 24 2016
by Amanda Morrison

The Role Colleges Play in the Presidential Debates

By Amanda Morrison - Oct 24 2016
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With the last presidential debate finally behind us, this year’s presidential elections are now more heated than ever. 

After the last debate at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump launched completely into offense mode. This debate allowed both candidates to focus on breaking issues and scandals all while ramping up the rhetoric of their campaigns. However, in the mix of the political discourse, an important factor of these debates often went unnoticed. Hosting presidential debates at colleges and universities across the country is an important component of campaigning and political culture. As college students, it’s important for us to listen and pay attention to what happens on the campuses that host the debates and recognize the role that college students and the universities themselves play in the political process.

One of the most important roles that colleges and universities play in hosting the presidential debate is furthering the younger generation's engagement with the election. Although many young people have been increasingly involved in politics this year, Millennials sometimes get a bad reputation for jumping on political bandwagons. When colleges host the debates, students all across the host campus are incentivized to learn more about candidates, the political process, media involvement in the election and offer support to the campaign that they believe best represents their beliefs. Take the debate at Washington University in St. Louis, for example. Fresh U caught up with a current student at WashU to discuss what it was like to have the October 9 debate on their campus. Freshman Alec Hilton commented:

“The debate became the topic of conversation around my university. Especially the week of the debate and when the news agencies were coming in, people wanted to learn more about the candidates. A lot of people thought they might get interviewed and wanted to sound educated, but this also allows students to make better informed decisions and have better conversations.”

This attitude towards the debates seemed to echo through Hofstra University, Longwood University and the University of Nevada at Las Vegas as well. The culture surrounding the colleges where the debates were held encouraged widespread activism and informed voting. Many believe the participation of colleges in the debates helps young people to become better citizens. It also allows communities in the surrounding areas to be more supportive of their local universities and help encourage the faculty and staff of the schools to also become more involved.

Hilton additionally noted, “we were able to better articulate and understand our own positions, as well as understand those who had opposing views. By having discussions, we were able to decide where we stood on topics that we were previously undecided on.”

The culture created from hosting the presidential debates at our nation’s universities showcases an important lesson for every voter: we should all be willing and able to have productive, informative discussions as our country inches closer and closer to deciding its next leader.

Lead Image Credit: Alec Hilton via Washington University Student

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Amanda Morrison - Temple University

Amanda Morrison is a freshman at Temple University studying Global Studies and Strategic Communication with minors in Community Development and Spanish. Her favorite past activities include being a nationally ranked debater and inspecting cocoa beans in Tanzania. Amanda loves reading, writing and eating Chick-fil-A. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @manders051.

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