The NBC Republican Presidential Candidates Debate descends onto campus today, bringing a national spotlight to USF. With all four remaining candidatesconfirmed and the Florida primary only a week away, the debate is an incredibly important political event.
The vast majority of students will not be hearing the discussion in person, with only a few pre-selected students receiving tickets. Yet despite the disappointment, students should recognize the significance of the debate happening on campus and be sure to pay attention.
The debate will be held in USF’s 500-seat Theatre I, which Student Government (SG) President Matt Diaz said was chosen for its professional lighting and “intimatesetting,” according to bn9.com. The debate was initially scheduled for the Tampa Bay Times Forum, but because it would have occurred the day before the primary, but it was moved to the available venue of USF.
Many students may have hoped that, since the debate was taking place on their campus, they would have a chance to attend. Yet only 50 to 100 pre-selected students will receive tickets to the event, according to USF spokeswoman Lara Wade-Martinez. The eligible students include select students chosen by professors covering the event and SG senators being placed on standby.
Since many of the professors working in the Media Center Spin Zone teach political science, it’slikely many of their selected students will be political science majors, already well-informed about the presidential race. The SG senators are obviously very politically active as well, but the vote is not decided by the politically active alone. A collective of the country’s average citizens decides the vote.
Allowing the only possibletickets to be allocated to selected students and senators leaves out the average student, who might most benefit from an up-closeperspective of the political system, as well as represent the University.
SG is hosting a watch party with an estimated cost of $20,000outside the theater in the MLK Plaza. A tent and projector will be set up to allow students to watch the debate, occurring only a few steps away.
For the student body, this setup may seem like a disappointment for an already underrepresented group of voters. According to Pew Research, four in every 10 18- to 29-year-olds are not registered to vote – a number that does not bode well for the representation of students in the Florida primaries Jan. 31 and the presidential election Nov. 6.
Ultimately, however, students shouldn’t let the situation deter them from seeing the debate – whether at the watch party or at home on television. The debate should provide USF students with a good last-minute opportunity to get familiar with the candidates’ views and positions, set to abackdrop they’re alreadyfamiliar with.