On Oct. 16, 2012 Hofstra University hosted the second of three presidential debates between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Today, one year later, some of the many Hofstra students, faculty and administrators who were involved in months of planning and preparation share their favorite memories of the Debate 2012 experience.
Tevon Hyman ’14, political science
There is so much that I could say when it comes to what was going on during the debate last year. The campus community came together and we were all full of excitement. It was amazing to see how Hofstra was able to turn the whole campus upside down from the news pool at the Physical Fitness Center to the debate hall at the Mack Sports Complex. But for me, I can’t put into words what it meant to be the stand-in for the President during rehearsals. I got the opportunity as president of the Student Government Association and my involvement with the debate team that Student Affairs was leading. Plus, I had the same height as the President (side note: he is much taller than me!). Meeting President Obama was a great, amazing, exciting opportunity. There is no question that when he enters a room, he controls that space. Our conversation was light and short; he asked me about my major and future goals and made the whole discussion very relaxed.
Herman Berliner, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs
The months and weeks leading up to the 2012 debate were a period of a steadily building momentum. An economist one week was followed by a foreign policy expert the next week and a health care policy person the following week. I appreciated this steady and continuous flow of information; it allowed us to become more sophisticated about the critical issues without being inundated all at the same time with information and positions. I especially enjoyed being involved in planning some of these events and became smarter as a result of these programs. At the same time, the changes on campus, especially to the arena, became more and more visible as the big day approached. And then, almost before you realized it, the debate was here and the environment became highly charged, totally intensive and singularly transformative. The anticipation that the candidates will arrive, the thousands of journalists, commentators and support individuals, our Democracy in Performance events, the excitement of our students and faculty, and finally the debate itself, all came together and clearly represented history being made. And the history was being made at our University; it can’t get much better than that.
Participating in Debate 2012 as a political analyst for both English and Spanish media outlets was an amazing experience. Debate Day started at 6:00 a.m. with a live television interview with Univision and the rest of the day was non-stop packed with radio, TV and newspaper interviews till midnight. One of the real highlights for me was watching the actual debate with the White House Press Corp in the media center where “Spin Alley” is located. Even before the debate was over, the Democrats began to filter into Spin Alley to claim victory. I was then asked to enter the media fray myself to speak with various media outlets. I gave interviews to media from as far away as China, Turkey, and Norway, and as local as Hempstead. Even a year after the debate, Spanish-language media outlets still contact me on a regular basis to comment on U.S. and international politics. Participating in Debate 2012 was one of the most exciting opportunities I have had in my career as a political scientist at Hofstra.
Being a part of the Debate 2012 was one of the greatest experiences of my life, especially as an aspiring journalist. It was the perfect place to be because volunteers were directly experiencing the ins and outs of all the hard work that goes into planning a debate. I have never seen so many people crowding the campus like on the day of the debate. There were people from all over the world and from so many media outlets, and it was great to see the students interact with reporters for interviews. It was also great to see the political side of everything; people were holding up signs about changes they wanted to see in America.
Working for the media filing center was a great experience for me. I got to take photos of the debate set up and the volunteers at work. The best part was getting to know so many more students and faculty at Hofstra. I will never forget the day of the debate. Everyone was counting down to when the President would arrive. I also liked how student volunteers were able to be last-minute seat fillers during the debate. It was great for them because they were ineligible to apply for the original lottery ticket into the debate. I was not picked to be a seat filler but I heard great stories from the people who were.
The mantra for us at the Center for Civic Engagement throughout last fall was that we must remain engaged and participate in our communities all the time, not just during the election cycles and the high profile events like the debates. So it was fitting that on October 16th, while the world watched the debate across campus, we were gathered in the Monroe Lecture Hall with about 350 to 400 local community members who got together to raise issues that they would have posed to the two major candidates. It was undoubtedly the most diverse group of people I had ever seen gathered in one spot on the Hofstra campus in the many years I’ve been here. And the passion and commitment of the people came through loud and clear. It was a special moment on a special night.
Jayne Brownell, Assistant Vice President, Student Affairs
It was such an honor being a part of Debate 2012 (which for me will always be simply #hofdebate). I was co-chair of the group that selected, trained and coordinated the 400 students who volunteered to help make the debate run smoothly. In addition, along with my colleagues in Student Affairs, I also got to know and work with very enthusiastic and creative students to plan campus events for both debate night and for the weeks leading up to the debate. The night of the debate, after the festivities were over and the campus was starting to quiet down, I spontaneously connected with the students on the debate programming committee, and we walked across campus together, ending up in Phillips Hall at about 1 or 2 a.m. to share stories of the day. The picture I took of them that night says it all for me—they were proud, exhilarated, and exhausted by a job well done. I felt exactly the same way.
Leading up to the debate I worked as a student aide with the Office of University Relations preparing debate binders and other materials that were required for planning such a huge event. I also assisted the Commission on Presidential Debates in the media filing center with credentialing and seating media both in the days before and on debate night. Being part of the staff was such a great experience as a School of Communication student because not only did I get to see the public relations aspect of how to plan and prepare for a presidential debate, but also what happened when the media arrived and how to handle situations that could arise in this type of event setting. I am so grateful that I was able to be a part of the 2012 presidential debate and will use the skills learned in my future endeavors.
Hofstra University had the opportunity to host back-to-back presidential debates in 2008 and 2012. These were experiences I will never forget. Although I have been at Hofstra for several momentous occasions, the debates were, by far, one of the highlights. Last year, the excitement on campus among the students and the Hofstra community at large was electrifying. Hofstra will forever be in the history books. During both debates, I assisted in the media credentialing center, which afforded me the opportunity to meet journalists from all over the world, and also hosted some of the special debate programming. One of my best memories is of being among high-school and middle-school students who arrived on campus to see history come alive in dramatic style during the Democracy in Performance event. This surely prepared the way for our commemoration of both the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.
Bryan Kugler ’15, broadcast journalism
The chance to be a volunteer at one of the three presidential debates was an extraordinary opportunity that I could not turn down. Little did I know that I was going to be a runner for CBS! I was assigned to help with various tasks, such as assisting with building part of the set for the CBS Evening News, setting up cameras and other equipment, and grabbing dinner for CBS anchor Scott Pelley on the night of the debate! Soon after filming for the evening news had finished, I was able to meet Pelley and other notable journalists Norah O’Donnell and Major Garrett. Meeting these news professionals reassured me that getting involved with the media industry was the right choice!
Having experienced firsthand the excitement and responsibilities of hosting a presidential debate in 2008, I did not expect to be surprised again (apart from the excitement of learning we would have this special and unique opportunity a second time!). But knowing the tremendous work involved with hosting not just the debate itself but all of the associated programming for the University and community does not lessen the demands or the pace. We began to plan our Debate 2012 programs as soon as we learned in late 2011 that we would host another debate, and we still were working around the clock as the actual date neared. By Debate Day, I could no longer keep up with my e-mail, as queries were coming in faster than I could respond. I squeezed my phone charger into my suit pocket so I could recharge whenever I had an opportunity, even if only for a few minutes!
Once the debate ended, I was surprised by how long people stayed in “Spin Alley” in the Media Filing Center to listen to, or provide their own, post-debate analysis. I fully expected the commentary to take at least an hour, but even after the cameras were turned off, people just didn’t want to leave. The post-debate euphoria did not dissipate until the early morning hours – when I finally departed campus just before 1 a.m., throngs of students were outside the Student Center cheering in front of one of the cable network sets. It truly was a sight to behold such keen and intense student enthusiasm.
Here are our top 10 photos from the day of the debate!