All eyes were on Hofstra on October 16, 2012, when the University hosted the second presidential debate between President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.
The selection of Hofstra as a debate site by the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) made the University one of only two schools to host back-to-back presidential debates. The first was October 15, 2008, between then-Senator Obama and Senator John McCain. The 2008 debate was the first to be held in New York state since 1960 and the first ever at a New York college.
Even with the experience of hosting the 2008 debate, doing it a second time presented new challenges and exciting opportunities. The 2012 debate was in the town hall format, which required a different production plan, and included more than 20 citizen participants who asked the questions. It also required heightened security because, unlike 2008, a sitting president was participating. And finally, the University had the honor of hosting a contingent of foreign leaders who were studying the U.S. debate process.
However, one thing remained unchanged: The debate provided an outstanding learning experience for Hofstra students. More than 350 of them volunteered to work on the debate in various capacities – from working with the media to assisting with hospitality, credentialing, technical services and transportation.
In addition, more than 2,500 local K-12 students spent time on the Hofstra campus for debate-related programs, including a series of events titled Expressions of Democracy, presented on October 15.
There were a variety of debate simulcasts around campus for Hofstra students, faculty and staff, and viewing parties were held at the Mack Student Center’s Main Dining Room, Hof USA and the Netherlands Café. There were also community viewing simulcasts at the John Cranford Adams Playhouse and The Helene Fortunoff Theater at Monroe Lecture Center.