On Monday, Sept. 26 at 9 p.m., the Department of Political Science & Public Administration hosted a debate-watching event for the first presidential debate in University Hall. Similar events had been held previously during the Republican and Democratic primaries, but this was the first time a debate-watching event had been held for a presidential election.
In tandem to watching the debate, students were actively fact-checking the nominees’ claims and keeping up with social media responses online. University Hall 3820, where the event was held, was the ideal location for this sort of active participation because it is one of the “idea” labs, part of the College of Arts and Letters.
“It’s a great space that they built for students to do collaborative learning and group projects, because it’s got one big monitor, six pretty big monitors, work stations and it’s got 30 seats with iPads,” said Sam Nelson, chair of the Department of Political Science & Public Administration. “It’s a good for place for interactive learning and interactive events.”
Nelson said checking social media responses was seen as an important part of the event because it allowed the viewers to obtain different points of views on the issues being discussed.
“Twitter, especially, allowed us to see other people’s reactions in real time. There were 45 of us at the event, but we were considering the opinions of thousands of people,” Nelson said.
Along with following social media responses, the students also fact-checked claims made by the candidates.
“Neither candidate always tells the truth. They could exaggerate, they could lie, they could misremember lots of things, as happen when you’re debating off the cuff,” said M. Joel Voss, Assistant Professor at the Department of Political Science & Public Administration.
The students who attended the event also felt that fact-checking was essential because many people tend to follow the words of a candidate blindly.
“I think fact-checking while using social media is incredibly important,” said fourth-year Political Science and History student Sebastian Wright, who attended the event. “As a voter, it is your duty to educate yourself so that your decision for president reflects not only your views, but what the country needs.”
The technology provided by the Idea Lab allowed students to actively participate in the process, whereas previously, viewers would simply watch the debate passively. The debate-watching event provided a platform for politically-interested students of all majors to gather together and discuss their views, Voss said.
“Of course, as a student, they have different policies on student loans, college affordability and things like that,” said Voss. “For a current student, whomever is elected will have policy decisions to make that will affect their careers going forward.”
The next debate-watching event will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 19 in University Hall Room 3820. The group also plans to hold an event for election night.