UI students pack the Bijou for UISG's presidential debate viewing


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Nearly 200 University of Iowa students filled the Bijou to capacity, with more spilling into an overflow room two floors above on Tuesday night, all to watch the second presidential debate of the election season.

UI Student Government hosted a debate showing for the first time, broadcasting the program live. Food, drink, and shirts were provided free of charge to UI students. UISG hopes the event will inform students as well as encourage them to vote.

“We wanted to engage students,” UISG Vice President Jessie Tobin said. “One of the big aspects of the Get Out the Vote movement was to inform students, and what better way than having a space for them to watch the debate and become more informed voters.”

UI student Tom Meirick came to the showing for both the social and political aspects.

“I just wanted to get together with some other students and hear what they candidates have to say,” he said. “Being in a state that’s definitely a battleground state — Iowa — every vote is important. I really believe to take advantage of that you have to be well-informed on the candidates and the issues.”

Officials hoped the large event would draw students who would not normally be involved.

“By having a big event, it draws more people to see this great thing that only happens every four years,” said UISG Sen. Jack Cumming.

One of the tactics UISG used to draw attention was the logo printed across the front of the shirts: “Voting is Sexy.”

“[The purpose of the logo] was to really stand out and attract attention from students,” Tobin said. “If you have something that just says ‘Go Vote,’ students might look over it, but when you have something that says ‘Voting is Sexy,’ students are going to say ‘Hey, what’s that? I want that shirt.’ ”

Cumming said the shirts look nice, but he is more interested in the effect they will have.

“If it’s something that’s going to get more students out to vote, then I’m all for it,” he said.

Going out to vote is also a very important issue to UI student Ashley Lee, who came to watch the debate.

“I am here because I feel, as a 18-year-old and eligible to vote, I should understand both sides of this upcoming election,” Lee said. “And I really feel strongly about voting because it’s one of the ways I can get my voice heard and contribute ideas.”

This debate showing was the first this year, as well as the last.

“This is the only debate watch we are going to do — we wanted to do just one,” Nic Pottebaum, president of UISG, said. “It ended up being a very hot topic one because of the way the first debate went out.”

The first presidential debate between President Obama and GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney took place Oct. 3 at the University of Denver. There, Obama and Romney debated specifically on domestic policy issues.

In all, the debate showing cost a little under $4,000. Iowa City Patch contributed the roughly $300 used for food. UISG printed 500 shirts, spending $3,600. Officials only passed out 300 on Tuesday and they will continue to pass them out in the next couple of days in an effort to get students to vote.

“We are not promoting one candidate over the other,” Tobin said. “We just want students to be informed.”

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