Campus & Community

Students take advantage of debate opportunities

The first debate of the 2012 presidential election marks a turning point for the country, and for the University of Denver. DU students have taken a keen interest in the debate and the presidential election and are getting involved in various activities, no matter their political stance.

Six student committees have been formed, each with diverse goals so students can choose what interests them most. More than 160 students applied for 20 open positions on the largest committee: DebateFest.

DebateFest is a viewing party meant to engage the entire campus community, including students, alumni, faculty, staff and neighbors. Taking place on the south side of campus on Oct. 3, the day of the debate, the event will be an outdoor celebration of diversity and community, with live music, an “issues alley,” local food trucks and debate viewing on giant screens. Community groups will be stationed in the “Interactive Corner,” featuring branches of the military, a pet adoption truck and an organ/bone marrow donor booth. More than 7,000 people are expected to attend the event.

Sam Estenson, DebateFest student coordinator and Undergraduate Student Government president, is excited about the event. “Oct. 3 is going to be a day DU students, faculty and staff talk about for years to come,” Estenson says. “DebateFest itself is going to be more than just a viewing place—it is going to be a source of entertainment, conversation, media, food and community. I cannot wait for everything that this presidential debate will bring to our campus. It speaks volumes about our institution and its students.”

Other student committees include marketing and PR, international involvement, student debate prep and volunteer coordination. The latter group arranges opportunities for students to volunteer at various events leading up to the debate, where they can enter their name into a lottery for extra chances to win tickets to the debate.

A unique curriculum also has been created in awareness of the educational opportunities offered by the debate. Classes exploring topics such as presidential leadership, the U.S. Constitution and how religion influences the election were offered in the spring and summer quarters. Fall courses offered in the political science department also will have a debate-focus; scheduled classes include Presidential Campaigns and Debates and Elections.

University College, DU’s school of professional and continuing studies, is offering debate-related courses in its Enrichment Program this fall. Noncredit classes for adults include Great Debates: The Questions We’ve Forgotten to Ask; Platforms and Platitudes: Elections and the Media; Moneypol: The Rising Price of American Democracy; and Presidential Issues: Election 2012. Classes begin Sept. 10.

In preparation for the debate, the University also is hosting an event series featuring lectures and discussion panels with professors and notable political figures. An all-campus lecture Sept. 4 includes former Colo. Gov. Richard Lamm, political science Professor Seth Masket and others, and a post-debate appearance by alumnus and Time magazine editor-at-large David Von Drehle is scheduled for Oct. 4.

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