Baruch’s Engelman Recital Hall was filled to the brim on Monday, Sept. 26, when students, faculty and guests met to watch the first presidential debate.
A media alert advertising the event stated that the goal of hosting a debate viewing party was to allow students to watch, react and voice their opinion about specific parts of the debate.
After the presidential debate concluded, members of the faculty were available to talk to in order to discuss the students’ observations and answer any questions.
“Student participation in this election cycle is essential to its success, but having students understand the issue is even more important,” Daniel Dornbaum, president of the Undergraduate Student Government, said. “The debate watch helped Baruch students engage in the election process in a unique way and we are looking forward to the remaining three events.”
The Fall semester has been marked by a major push to get students more involved in the upcoming elections. Events like voter registration rallies and debate viewing parties aim to raise the students’ interest in politics and help them cast a mindful vote on Election Day.
The viewing party consisted of two parts. Before the debate, a Berkin-Friedman forum hosted panellists Douglas J. Besharov and Tamara Draut, who spent an hour discussing the issue of employment in the United States and explaining how the two presidential candidates could influence it.
Besharov is a lawyer and a professor at the University of Maryland. Draut is the vice president of policy and research at Demos. She is also the author of Sleeping Giant: How America’s New Working Class Will Transform America. Dean of the Marxe School of Public and International Affairs David S. Birdsell served as the moderator of the forum.
The first part of the forum served to highlight Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump’s stances on job and economic issues.
During his presentation, Besharov presented his own plan on fixing the U.S. economy. In his plan, he proposed moves like tax reform, Social Security reform, legalization of unauthorized immigrants, K-12 reform, career and technical reform and the removal of disincentives to marry.
Besharov expanded on these ideas by stating that the United States needs a simpler tax system and that legalizing unauthorized immigrants is the best way to ease the burden they have on the U.S. economy. The education system here, he explained, provides a much weaker education than the one that young adults have in other countries. In order to stay competitive in the global economy, the government needs to improve its standards for education.
The second part of the forum, led by Draut, concentrated on the current employment issues that U.S. workers are facing.
“Nearly half of workers in this country earn less than $15 an hour. These aren’t teenagers—half of those workers who earn less than $15 an hour are over the age of 35,” Draut said. “Forty-three million workers have no right to take paid sick day. Nine out of 10 workers have no access to paid maternal leave to take care of their newborns [and] half of our workers have no access to a retirement plan on the job.”
Draut went on to talk about wage theft, which happens when workers are not paid overtime or they are asked to work after they have already punched out on the clock.
She highlighted how, in 2012, the state and federal governments won nearly $1 trillion in stolen wages that they eventually returned to the workers.
Draut ended her segment by addressing the issue of the high cost of earning a college degree.
“As soon as we stopped investing in institutions of higher learning, we had a rise in tuition, a rise in debt and a generation for whom the best jobs available today require a college degree,” Draut said.
In her speech, Draut mentioned Clinton’s college plan, which would allow students to attend state colleges and universities while remaining debt-free.
The second part of the event—the debate viewing—attracted a younger audience than the forum.
Meanwhile, an event parallel to the debate viewing took place in the Multipurpose Room, with different professors to whom the students could speak.
At the entrance of the Engelman Recital Hall, workers handed out fliers with step-by-step instructions on connecting to Baruch’s Microsoft Pulse site that was set up for the debate, which allowed audience members to like, dislike and comment each time a candidate made a statement. Every five seconds, the Pulse site would refresh and a graph would appear on the bottom of the page to help visualize the audience’s impression of what the candidates said. From analysing the graph, it was clear that the majority of the audience were Clinton supporters.
The debate itself was moderated by Lester Holt, anchor of NBC’s Nightly News. The debate was split into three topics: achieving prosperity, securing America and America’s direction.
The 96-minute debate was full of arguments between the candidates, interjections, laughs and personal attacks. Overall, Clinton was able to talk about her policies more than Trump, though she did not reveal anything that one could not learn from her previous speeches or her website.
Trump started off confident when the topic was what he knew the most about—trade deals. He criticized Clinton for not trying to reject some of the policies when she was in power and expressed that he wanted to repeal or renegotiate some of them. However, the further he went into the debate, the more he crumbled. In the end, he was unable to repel Clinton’s attacks.
Clinton, on the other hand, started off weakly but ended with strength, showing the audience that she was more prepared for the debate than her opponent. She knew when to attack and when to explain some of her points, which won her the approval of Baruch’s audience and the rest of the viewers. An NBC poll crowned her the unofficial winner of the debate.
Two more presidential debates will take place before Election Day—the first one will take place on Oct. 9 and the second on Oct. 19. In the meantime, Baruch’s website is offering free tickets for a vice presidential debate viewing that will take place on Oct. 4 in the Engelman Recital Hall.