October 8, 2008
College students see debate as uninformative
SUNY Cortland undergrads say debate was more about entertainment than information
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Students gather at SUNY Cortland’s West Campus social center to watch the presidential debate Tuesday night. Left to right are, Momodou Sey, Alicia Eimer, Sarah Boeres, Carl Winter (not pictured) and Mary Papageorgiou.
Tuesday evening was cold and quiet at SUNY Cortland’s West Campus apartments off Route 281.
Next to the Social Center, four students played road hockey in the headlights from a parked car. Their sticks clacked against the pavement. The game paused whenever a car entered the lot.
Inside, four students and a representative of the New York Public Interest Research Group, or NYPIRG, munched grapes and bread and watched the presidential debate from Nashville on a high-definition TV.
Their reaction? The debate was more about entertainment than information.
“Very good yes or no,” junior Sarah Boeres quipped as Barack Obama, the Democratic candidate, waxed long on the question of whether Russia is the evil empire. Moderator Tom Brokaw had told the candidates they could answer with yes or no.
The students were annoyed that both Obama and Republican John McCain packed every answer with as many messages as possible. Asked what impressed her about the debate, Boeres said, “How well they avoided the questions and attacked each other.”
“I thought Obama stuck to his ideas and seemed more capable of dealing with issues than McCain,” said Momodou Sey, a resident assistant from Gambia, West Africa. “He gave clear answers.”
Alicia Eimer, the NYPIRG representative who organized the event, was disappointed with the low turnout but not surprised.
“We did a program here about voter registration and students were enthusiastic,” said the Ithaca resident. “But for the debate, a lot of students will watch Jon Stewart (“Daily Show” on Comedy Central). He’s pretty accurate in his information, actually.”
Eimer said young people are apathetic, according to polls. The U.S. Census Bureau said 46.7 percent of people ages 18 to 24 voted in the 2004 election.
Eimer said NYPIRG, an advocacy group that pushes for political reform and environmental awareness, has been focusing on registering students to vote and will now focus on educating them about the candidates.
Not many students appeared to be watching the debate at 9:45 p.m. Two intramural touch football games went on under the lights next to Park Center. The TV at Corey Union’s Dragon’s Den eatery showed a poker tournament. Memorial Library looked fairly full of students. One residence hall’s lounge had a TV drama on its big screen.
“I was surprised that McCain is supposed to be good at the town hall meeting but Obama was more impressive,” Sey said.
Mary Papageorgiou and Carl Winter shrugged off the whole thing.
“They reached millions they wouldn’t have with just advertising,” Winter said.
“I keep changing my mind about who I’m going to vote for,” said Papageorgiou. “During the primaries (with Hillary Rodham Clinton) I really liked Obama. Now I’m not sure. I think (independent) Ralph Nader might be the best candidate.”
“They (Obama and McCain) aren’t speaking to our generation anyway,” Winter said.
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