Over 400 students received debate tickets
A total of 432 students received tickets to the vice presidential debate—close to three times the number of students who had received tickets at previous debates.
The tickets, which were allotted to Washington University by the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), were first distributed through the University’s lottery system. When the number of tickets available exceeded the number of lottery numbers drawn, tickets were distributed to student leaders.
“The real reason we had more seats in there was that we had a lot more partial and obstructed view seats on the sides,” Rob Wild, assistant to the Chancellor and chair of the Vice Presidential Debate Steering Committee, said. “Because this is not like a theater where we know how many seats there are, literally, until 48 hours up to the debate they were still setting the number of seats on the floor.”
There was no shortage of interest in attending the debate: 7,148 students applied for tickets before the lottery closed on Friday, Sept. 26. Initially the University expected to receive tickets for only 100 to 150 seats, but as the week progressed, it quickly became clear that more seating would be available.
“I’m just so thrilled,” Wild said. “We thought we were going to get 150 students in and we got nearly three times that many.”
Because the University was given so many tickets, more tickets could be distributed to students in the lottery.
389 students came to the drawing, leaving 43 tickets to spare. With such a substantial number of tickets remaining—and no way of contacting the students with lower lottery numbers—University administrators decided to give tickets to student leaders who were not a part of the lottery.
According to Assistant Vice Chancellor for Students Jill Carnaghi, there were three options: the University could have let the seats go empty, given the tickets to administrators or given them to students they know.
“[Letting the seats go empty] would have been a crime, and giving the tickets to administration and faculty would go against everything we stand for, and what we have done in each debate we got,” Carnaghi said.
In the end, the decision to keep all the CPD tickets in the hands of students allowed 43 students who were not in the lottery to receive tickets. Students targeted for the second distribution of tickets included campus leaders, volunteers and students known to the administration.
The total 432 tickets distributed to students do not include an unknown number of students who received tickets from the media outlets for whom they were working.
Freshman Parsa Bastani was one of the lucky few who received a ticket but was not in the top 300 lottery.
“I was pulsating entering, because I wasn’t originally supposed to have a ticket,” he said. “It was such an electric atmosphere.”
As an undecided voter, junior Jimmy Cox was focused on the issues.
“I’m very excited,” he said. “I’m just looking forward to hear[ing] both of them. I’m on the fence right now, so I want to hear what they have to say.”
Overall, the debate’s focus seemed to be on Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, as many students went into the debate with their eyes on her.
“I pretty much have a very Tina Fey-opinion of Sarah Palin right now, so it’ll be interesting whether the extra training she’s done for this has gotten her up to date,” junior Emily Lebsack said. “As for Biden, I have a lot of respect for him and for his experience.”
With additional reporting by Sam Guzik and Dan Woznica.