Students at debate enjoy University’s moment in spotlight
The Athletic Complex was abuzz with excited students Thursday night, as the lucky few granted access to enter the Debate Hall enjoyed an environment of famous faces coupled with an enormous media presence and a sense of political import.
“I really feel privileged to be here,” Troy Cosey said, a junior in the Business school. “I feel like an ambassador here.”
Going into the debate, Cosey said he felt that even though he was a guest at the event, he felt like a representative of Washington University.
“I’m still a host, and I’m showing a lot of politicians what Wash. U.’s all about,” Cosey said.
Outside the Debate Hall, many students flocked to the numerous popular personalities present at the event, including celebrities such as Katie Couric, The Daily Show’s John Oliver, and actress Rosario Dawson.
Sophomore Taylor Martin described seeing Dawson as a heartening experience.
“I felt encouraged that a fairly big celebrity, out of all the things to do in the world, chose to be at a politically important event,” Martin said.
Inside the hall, students were impressed by what many saw as a complete transformation of the gym with which they had once been familiar.
“It looks nothing like the gym used to look,” junior Emily Jacobson said from inside the hall. “It’s really unlike anything I’d have ever imagined.”
The floor of the gym was carpeted over, massive light fixtures were set up overhead, and an enormous red, white and blue stage, flanked by twenty-foot American flag signs, dominated the scene.
Immediately before the debate, Chancellor Wrighton and Student Union President Brittany Perez went up on the stage to address the audience.
The two thanked the hundreds of people involved in preparing for the debate and encouraged University students to continue the political engagement they had demonstrated already by voting in this year’s election.
After Biden and Palin finished debating, students leaving the hall spoke with high enthusiasm about how the evening had played out.
“It was really cool,” said junior Erin Kane. “I was totally blown away.”
Kane said she was impressed by both Palin’s and Biden’s performances. Bill Lowry, a Political Science professor who viewed the debate from inside the media filing center, felt the same.
“It was a competent debate,” Lowry said. “I think basically both of them did what they had to do. Palin did not embarrass herself. She showed she could be articulate and relatively competent. And Biden was very forceful and very substantive.”
Kane said that, in particular, she felt Biden’s comments on Obama’s environmental and energy policies would resonate strongly with students on campus.
“I think one of the things people have seemed most active about has been Green Action, and I think that’s something that Biden hit on really well,” Kane said.
After most of the crowd had left, several students were given access to “Spin Alley,” the media center set up in the Athletic Complex’s recreational gym for pundits and politicians to gather and “spin” the debate in various directions.
Seen in the Alley were campaign managers for both parties, as well as such famous public figures as Rudy Giuliani, Joe Lieberman and Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill.
At one point, a group of students surrounded McCaskill and asked her what she thought of the University.
“I love Wash. U.,” said McCaskill. She followed with a plan of her own to begin fixing the nation’s economic problems.
“My plan for economic development for the state of Missouri: throw a net over Wash. U. and tell all the kids that go to college here they cannot leave when they graduate. They must stay in Missouri