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Students hold watch parties across campus for first presidential debate

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More than 200 students gather at Norris University Center to watch the presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt served as Monday’s debate moderator.

More than 200 students gather at Norris University Center to watch the presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt served as Monday’s debate moderator.

Jeffrey Wang/Daily Senior Staffer

Jeffrey Wang/Daily Senior Staffer

More than 200 students gather at Norris University Center to watch the presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt served as Monday’s debate moderator.

Mariana Alfaro, Web Editor

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As presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump faced each other for the first time on the debate stage Monday night, hundreds of Northwestern students gathered at watch parties across campus.

About 60 students in the Communications Residential College gathered for a viewing party. Julian Sanchez, a Communication sophomore who organized the event and is a Chicago native, said he was “rubbed the wrong way” by the way Trump described Chicago’s state of violence and crime. During the debate, Trump compared the city to a “war-torn country” and said he was aware of the violence because he has businesses downtown.

“He only thinks of it as a place of his business as opposed to, like, there are people there and communities,” Sanchez said. “Hillary Clinton described more of the community of Chicago, rather than financial businesses.”

The CRC watch party was preceded by a talk by former Communication Dean David Zarefsky and Medill Associate Dean Craig LaMay. They discussed the significance of Monday’s showdown in the context of the 2016 election.

LaMay and Zarefsky discussed the role of the debate moderator, with LaMay saying journalists shouldn’t serve as mediators between candidates. Debate committees, he said, should instead hire someone such as a university president or an economic leader to moderate political debates.

“If you’re a journalist, you have an interest in and a bias for creating controversy, which means you’re going to ask questions that are intended to elicit gaffes, an awkward answer,” he said. “The debate should be about the debaters, not the moderators, and the journalists cannot help themselves.”

NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt served as Monday’s debate moderator. Holt, however, wasn’t constantly present on-screen. Throughout the event, he resurfaced only to introduce new questions and remind the candidates their time was up. At one point, Trump told Holt he was wrong after Holt challenged Trump’s suggestion that reviving the stop-and-frisk program would reduce crime.

Students in the Communications Residential College gather to watch presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump face each other for the first time on the debate stage. Before the viewing party, former Communication Dean David Zarefsky and Medill Associate Dean Craig LaMay discussed the nature of debates and the role of the debate moderator.

Noah Frick-Alofs/The Daily Northwestern
Students in the Communications Residential College gather to watch presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump face each other for the first time on the debate stage. Before the viewing party, former Communication Dean David Zarefsky and Medill Associate Dean Craig LaMay discussed the nature of debates and the role of the debate moderator.

Students, however, focused more on the candidates’ performances than the moderator’s role.

At Norris, more than 200 students stopped by NU Votes watch party. Weinberg junior Justine Hung said she stayed for the entire debate because she’s been following the election closely.

Hung said she was not surprised by what the presidential candidates said and felt that other NU students also knew what to expect.

Rebecca Angoyar, a Weinberg junior who attended the Norris watch party, said she appreciated Clinton’s statements on race and was pleasantly surprised by how Trump managed to avoid too many controversial comments on the topic.

“Donald Trump surprisingly managed to stay out of a lot of trouble with his mouth in that area,” she said. “I was actually expecting him to be a lot more problematic and pokey, so I think he didn’t really say much in that regard.”

During the debate, Clinton and Trump battled over the economy, trade and national security. Clinton notably confronted Trump over his decision to not release his tax returns, with Trump responding by saying he would release the returns once Clinton released her “33,000 emails that have been deleted.”

Over 200 students gathered at Harris Hall for a watch party held by Political Union, College Republicans and College Democrats.

This story was updated at 10:40 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 27. 

Email: alfaro@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @marianaa_alfaro

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