When I first heard of DU hosting the debate, I was excited and happy for the university and its students. Now I know the error of my thinking, that the debate is brought to a university to expose the most important people on campus, the students, to a historic moment in the election season is what I thought this was going to be. Having never been on a campus that hosted a presidential debate, I didn't know any better. But a few months ago as signs started to appear all over campus about impending closures, event cancellations/rescheduling, and class cancellation for October 3rd, I began to have my doubts.
Now, one day away from the event, it is clearer than ever that the debate is not, and has never been handled as an event, to benefit the students. Reported this morning on the local news, Magness Arena, in the Richie Center, is going to hold 1000 debate spectators. DU students will occupy approximately 92 of those seats. The students lucky enough to attend were picked in a lottery yesterday morning. All students and 2012 graduates of DU were automatically entered into the lottery. Knowing full well that only a small section of the student body would be able to attend the debate, DU designed an on-campus watch party called Debate Fest. The initial introduction to Debate Fest was an email that called the party a ticketed event available only to DU students, faculty, and those living near the campus in the university hills neighborhood. An email invited people to register and reserve their spot for Debate Fest, where they could enjoy the festivities, feast from Denver's best food trucks, and enjoy a show from The Lumineers, who will play prior to the debate. I, along with hundreds more, registered for the event. Shortly after registration opened, Debate Fest reached capacity. This should not have been surprising to anyone, but it seemed to have surprised DU.
Yesterday, DU re-opened Debate Fest registration. It once again closed shortly thereafter due to the remaining spots being filled up. Then, last night, DU sent out an email with tips for Debate Fest. Here, I highlight point number three from the email:
3.) Please note that registration does NOT guarantee entrance to DebateFest. The number of people admitted to the event will be limited based on space constraints due to fire laws. We recommend that you arrive early.What this means is that any student or faculty member or neighborhood resident can show up as early as they want tomorrow and get in line for Debate Fest. The doors open at 3pm and space is now on a first come, first served basis, thus guaranteeing that many of those that did register for the event (read: students) will be denied entrance to their campus and "their" debate. There are many reasons why this is frustrating. To mention one, I am a graduate student. I have reading to do tomorrow. I can't devote my entire morning to standing in line for a party I am not even sure will be a good place to watch the debate from. My plan was to walk over at 3pm, stand in a short line, have my name scratched off a list because I registered for the event, and then walk inside. I am one of many students who planned to do that tomorrow.
The DU Presidential Debate is for DU administration, big-time DU donors, and the press. It is not for the students, nor is it for the Denver community or undecided voters. By yesterday, campus was crawling with members of the media from all over the world, while fences continued to sprout up everywhere to keep the students away from the most important, high-profile event that will ever happen on their campus. This event is a sham and it is embarrassing how DU has handled it from the start.