By Jessica Lewis, News Editor
Hofstra University will host the second presidential debate of the 2012 election season, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced Monday, Oct. 31.
This debate will be set up in a town hall format, allowing any members of the audience to ask the candidates questions. "The town hall form is really the most personal of all of the debates," said Dr. Richard Himelfarb, associate professor of political science, "because candidates are able to interact directly with citizens and, as we learned with other town hall debates, they are very revealing about how the candidates are as people."
Hofstra hosted the third presidential debate in 2008 between the Democratic candidate, the then-Illinois Senator, Barack Obama, and the Republican candidate, Arizona Senator John McCain, an event which showcased the university on a national platform.
"The campus was electric," said Melissa Connolly, Vice President of University Relations. "I think our students were great last time. They were really well prepared; the facilities worked out well."
Himelfarb is hopeful that the students will be able to be actively engaged during the election season as they were in the 2008 debate. "I think it is fantastic for Hofstra and for the community, but particularly for the students. In 2008, Hofstra made a point of putting the students first when it came to all of these events and wonderful opportunities," he said, referring to students being able to volunteer at the debate, and take courses related to the election and trips to conventions.
"I'm interested to see the whole process behind the scenes," said sophomore Sara Mori. "I was talking to people here who went to the debate in 2008, and it sounds like it is a really cool experience. People from around the country are here from news networks and political parties. It's a really fun and exciting place to be."
The University submitted the application to host the presidential debate—slated for Oct. 16, 2012—in January 2011. A total of 12 finalists emerged to host the debate.
"We were selected based on whatever criteria they [the Commission on Presidential Debates] use to make sure your facilities are usable," said Connolly.
The Commission on Presidential Debates conducts a site visit to applying facilities to determine if the location has the capability to host a debate. The venue must be able to host several thousand journalists and campaign personnel, and it must have the means to provide the required live television broadcasts.
Connolly further explained that the location also must check with local and regional law enforcement agencies to see if they would be willing to provide security.
"We [the university] spend the most time on creating an atmosphere that the students can benefit most from," Connolly said.
"Having the debate here for the second election in a row is amazing and we should take full advantage of this opportunity," said senior Joanna Little. Little attended the presidential debate held at the University in 2008.
Little encourages students to apply for a ticket because she benefited from being in the audience. "Debate '08 opened my mind to a wide array of new perspectives. After hearing both candidates I was able to formulate opinions and also learn more about the topics being discussed."
In the past 20 years, Washington University in St. Louis and Wake Forest in North Carolina are the only other schools to have hosted multiple presidental debates. Hofstra is the first university in New York to host a presidential debate for a general election.
The first debate will be held at the University of Denver on Oct. 3, 2012, and the third will take place Oct. 22 at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla.