Vice-presidential debate sways Northwestern students

Cat Zakrzewski, Assistant Campus Editor

Students gathered at the Communications Residential College to watch the only vice presidential debate of the 2012 election may not all agree on a candidate. Still, viewers reached the consensus that Thursday night’s debate was much more lively than last week’s presidential one.

About 30 students from four residential colleges congregated at CRC to watch Vice President Joe Biden face off against Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). The viewing party was broadcast live by WGN and also covered by WBBM Newsradio.

CRC faculty master Roger Boye kicked off the event by asking the residents of CRC, Jones, 1835 Hinman and International Studies Residential College to limit “jeering and cheering” during the debate.

Though the students remained respectful during the night, the room was far from quiet.

“There was much more reaction in the room tonight than there was for the presidential debate last week,” said Boye, noting the increased exchange between the candidates Thursday.

Biden’s repeated laughter at his opponent seemed to be contagious within the CRC lounge. Biden’s comment, “With all due respect, that’s a bunch of malarkey,” drew an outburst from the entire audience in the first few minutes of debate. Boye said he noted the most laughter when Ryan called out Biden for his many gaffes and said, “I think the vice president very well knows that sometimes the words don’t come out of your mouth the right way.”

When debate moderator Martha Raddatz asked the Catholic candidates to discuss their positions on abortion, several students let out a resounding “Ohh!”

Although the students did not restrain their reactions, WBBM reporter Bob Roberts said the CRC watch party was more serious than others he had covered.

“Here I was looking at people who were a lot more thoughtful and more interested in listening to answers,” Roberts said.

Several students said Thursday’s debate would have little impact on their vote on election day but that the debate was entertaining.

“It seemed more like a debate than the first presidential one,” Weinberg freshman Joseph Breen said. “They were conversing more.”

Even though the presidential debates will weigh more in her decision, Weinberg sophomore Anjolie Kulkarni said the vice presidential debate let her see how the candidates reflect on their running mates. She said she has been “leaning” toward voting for former Gov. Mitt Romney and Ryan.

“Tonight helped me to know what questions to ask in the future and what specific platform things I need to look for,” Kulkarni said.

Although Kulkarni said Ryan’s demeanor and personal anecdotes “sold” her, many of the students said they were not yet sure who they would call the winner of the debate.

“Ryan was definitely more aggressive,” McCormick freshman Tahir Kapoor said. “I thought he seemed really scripted, so it might not be reflecting what he’s thinking.”

WGN reporter Dan Ponce (MSJ 2005) said his interest in reporting on college students brought him to the CRC viewing party.

“College students are typically overlooked in the electorate because candidates focus on adults who are 50 or older,” Ponce said. “College students, especially at NU, are very engaged, and we knew we’d find some good opinions here.”

Thursday’s event was one of four debate watch parties that will be hosted at CRC this fall. Former School of Communication Dean David Zarefsky led a talk with CRC residents following the first presidential debate last Wednesday. CRC will host a faculty-led discussion following a viewing of the town-hall-style presidential debate next Tuesday, and Zarefsky will return for the final debate on Oct. 22.

“We are the Communications Residential College, and this is the epitome of political communications,” Boye said.