From organizing voter registration drives to attending activities fairs and watch parties to building red and blue robots, the WUSTL student body was heavily involved in debate preparation.
“Students are the ones who have organized much of the programming surrounding the debate and the election season,” said Brittany Perez, president of Student Union.
Students were able to appeal for funding through a special $55,000 Election Programming Fund created by Student Union, with contributions from the Gephardt Institute for Public Service, Campus Life and the Vice Presidential Debate Committee.
These funds helped create an impressive calendar of events from September all the way through November.
“I am really amazed at all the energy and enthusiasm generated by the debate and the election itself,” said Robin Hattori, program director of the Gephardt Institute for Public Service. “Students have definitely shown that they care about the issues and the youth vote is a vital force.”
Hattori said the debate has challenged students to think about politics in new ways.
“Since funding has been made available to students, a variety of programs have emerged — everything from a political poetry slam focused on human rights to a panel discussion for international students to gain a deeper understanding of the U.S. election,” she said.
“Students have conceptualized some incredible pieces of political art to display on campus. And they have created multiple forums to form their own opinions and express them. The debate and election have helped our students to collaborate more, and we have seen groups working together to garner widespread participation.”
One of the earliest events was a voter registration drive for graduate students held Aug. 25. Combined with a second campus-wide drive Sept. 18, more than 2,000 WUSTL students have been registered to vote in the Nov. 4 election.
Students also were able to participate in the Take a Stand Rally Sept. 11 and in the Make It Clear multimedia competition.
The Take a Stand Rally, sponsored by Campus Y, allowed more than 20 student groups involved in election issues, politics and voting to present and discuss what they do. Student groups could apply for funding up to $200 for supplies to help them accomplish the goal of a creative presentation.
More than 200 students attended, learning more about politics and activism on campus.
Students also were encouraged to participate in the Make it Clear multimedia contest, designed to engage the University community in the electoral process.
To enter, students were to address the following prompt: “You have five minutes one-on-one with the next would-be president of the United States. Write, describe, express or otherwise show what you would say or what would transpire.”
Submissions were due Oct. 1 and winners will be chosen Sunday, Oct. 12. The Vice Presidential Debate Program Planning Committee will award $100 each to the top two WUSTL students.
Several lectures were planned and organized by students, including a panel discussion called Young, Black and Ready to Vote and a post-debate event in Graham Chapel, Red vs. Blue.
Students also had plenty of opportunity to engage with national and international media. The CNN, C-SPAN and Rock the Vote election buses were on campus, as were several high-profile national media shows, including CBS’ “The Early Show” and MSNBC’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews.”
“To be able to be a part of this historical event on campus really was a special opportunity for our students, and I think everyone wanted to play a role in being a part of this event,” Perez said.