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Hofstra debate illicits harsh opinions from community

By Hannah Johnson

 Special to the Chronicle

Hofstra University has now held its third consecutive presidential debate and has given students, once again, the opportunity of a lifetime.

Melissa Connolly, Vice President of University Relations, said that the process that Hofstra has to go through to be considered for the debate is more than some may think.

Two years in advance, an application must be submitted to ensure the university meets all the demanding requirements to host a presidential debate. Some of these requirements include: ample support from law enforcement and local government, a large debate hall, enough square footage for media and the availability of hotel rooms.

“18 months out, the Commission [on Presidential Debates]does site surveys to see the lay of the land and to meet the team that will be working the debate,” Connolly said. “A year out they announce the sites.”

After Wright State University dropped out of hosting the debate, Hofstra University, the alternate site, had only 10 weeks to prepare.

The preparation for the debate was also problematic for students. Some examples were the limited availability of parking, road closures and a lot of annoying rules that students needed to follow. Connolly and others in charge of the debate do realize that this can be hard on the students.

“We try to make the campus as exciting as possible to make up for the fact that it is inconvenient to have a debate, but every great opportunity brings with it inconveniences,” she said.

Not only did Hofstra give some students a chance to watch the debate, the university also hosted educational programs around campus. These programs included: performances, comedy segments, keynote addresses and panels around issues.

Hofstra also gave volunteers the opportunity to help set up and receive an inside look on the debate itself, and of course, gave some students their 15 minutes of fame on one of the many news broadcasts that were present throughout debate weekend.

Although Hofstra gave these substantial opportunities to its students, some other people didn’t think it was so amazing.

A Facebook war started between supporters of Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and the students and alumni of Hofstra. Johnson’s supporters started posting one-star reviews on the university’s Facebook page, all due to the fact that Johnson didn’t have enough support to be invited to the debate.

Connolly didn’t think the comments hurt the university at all, stating “I think that it is definitely great for the reputation, but we [host] it because we think that it can be transformational for the students.”

Hofstra’s community has also fought back. With multiple students and alumni trying to defend the university, they countered all of the negative remarks with five-star reviews.

“I can understand people being frustrated with not having their candidate participate in the debate. However, it is not Hofstra’s fault,” said Antonio Grillo, a junior at Hofstra. “So don’t bash your feelings about your candidate not participating [within] the university. This university provides students with some of the most incredible opportunities … I am proud to be a student of Hofstra University.”

Many students and alumni have flooded the university’s Facebook page with comments like this to counter the awful reviews. “It is a political tactic,” Connolly said. “I think it will rebound, I don’t know what we are going to do about it yet, but it has been great to see students and alums standing up.”

The views and opinions expressed in the Op-Ed section are those of the authors of the articles. They are not an endorsement of the views of The Chronicle or its staff. The Chronicle does not discriminate based on the opinions of the authors.

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