More than 500 students, faculty and community members gathered Tuesday at Wright State University for the official presidential debate season kickoff.
“Since I started at Wright State, I don’t think I’ve seen anything build such a collective excitement among the student body as this debate process,” Gavin Doll, president of Wright State’s Student Government Association, told the crowd gathered inside the campus student union
The audience listened to speakers and watched a montage of past presidential debates as they ate lunch. At the conclusion of the event, balloons were dropped onto the crowd.
“This debate is an early 50th birthday present (for Wright State),” said Donna Schlagheck, professor emerita in WSU’s Department of Political Science. Schlagheck helped bring the debate to WSU.
The event was the first of many leading up to the debate. Others will include a film festival and guest speakers.
Wright State officials told the audience that the school won’t have enough tickets for every student to attend the first presidential debate on September 26 at the Nutter Center — the first of three featuring candidates for president. In January the university told its trustees that the debate may cost up to $8 million.
The university says it will create a lottery to decide which students get to attend. In addition, the school says staff and faculty will not be given tickets to the event.
“We’re doing a lottery. It’s the fairest way,” said Kathy Morris, associate vice president of student affairs at Wright State.
Morris said there will be some criteria students would have to meet to be eligible for the lottery. For instance, students must be enrolled in classes for the fall semester, be a U.S. citizen, be in a degree program and then be vetted.
University officials also say they’re not sure how many tickets the debate commission will provide to the school.
“It could be 100, or 200 tickets,” Morris said. “I just don’t know.”
Centre College in Danville, Ky., hosted the 2012 Vice Presidential Debate. A spokesman for the private, liberal arts college says the Commission on Presidential Debates provided the school with about 100 tickets. The college didn’t know how many tickets it would receive until five days prior to the debate.
“Students (who won the debate lottery) felt like Charlie Bucket getting the golden ticket to go visit the Chocolate Factory,” said Centre’s Michael Strysick.
During Tuesday’s kickoff event, a few tickets for WSU President David Hopkins’ on-campus watch party were raffled off.
Prior to the debate, Hopkins will speak live on CSPAN – something the university sees as an opportunity to pitch the school to a national audience. Afterward, Hopkins will head to his campus watch party.
Jonathan Pentz, a first-year medical student at Wright State’s Boonshoft School of Medicine, came to the kickoff Tuesday to find out how he could get tickets.
“I’ve been following the election pretty closely and I’m excited that the debate is coming here,” Pentz said. “When we found out, my parents were wanting some tickets, but I figured there would some sort of lottery system.”
Pentz said if he can’t get a ticket through the lottery, he’d consider volunteering if it means he go could to the debate.
The university said students and community members can volunteer to work as ushers, in the media “spin room” or in other roles. However, there is no guarantee that volunteers will get to watch the debate.
To inquire about volunteering, send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.