Second Presidential Debate Tonight: One Student Reports Live from Hofstra University


All eyes will be on Hofstra University Tuesday night for the second presidential debate between President Barack Obama and his opponent, Mitt Romney. Following the town hall format, the debate can potentially give both candidates a much-needed boost in this close race.

For Hofstra, tonight is the university's second opportunity to get its name out to the world when it comes to presidential debates. In 2008, Hofstra hosted the final Obama-McCain showdown, often known as the “Joe the Plumber” debate. For those of you who don’t know Hofstra, here’s the scoop from an actual student, currently behind-the-scenes at the debate.

I applied to Hofstra after watching the 2008 debate, partially because of Anderson Cooper reporting live from Hofstra Hall’s front lawn with a group of students. I loved how green the school looked; Hofstra is an accredited arboretum, which adds to its uniqueness.

The school is 25 miles away from New York City, giving me the comfort of a suburban feel. The eighth largest mall in America, Roosevelt Field, sits nearby, along with the Nassau Coliseum. But from the 13th floor of my residence hall on South Campus, I can still see the city skyline.

Hofstra is considered a medium-size campus with roughly 7,200 undergraduate students, and an average undergraduate class size of 21. I’ve had classes as small as 10 people, which has helped me connect with professors whose resumes include the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times

Most schools are defined by their athletics, but Hofstra isn’t one of them. Sure, we have Charles Jenkins of the Golden State Warriors to call our own in the NBA right now, and our women’s softball team made it to the NCAA Super Regionals last spring. But the amount of students that show up to a lecture by Jeb Bush or Chris Matthews far exceeds the number that cheers in the stands for basketball games.

I was at Shuart Stadium for one of the last football games in 2009, and sat depressed for weeks when the school decided to let go of its football team. But I got over it after meeting Sid Bernstein, the music producer that found the Beatles, in the Cultural Center Theater, and getting my first byline in the Hofstra Chronicle for covering students sleeping in tents on the quads as a mark of solidarity with refugees worldwide. 

Hofstra has stayed on top of the political sphere long before this presidential debate. The university has hosted presidential conferences, complete with visits from former presidents Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Gerald Ford.

In my time here, I’ve sat on the ground floor of the Mack Sports Complex for the 2010 New York State Gubernatorial Debate on campus, and got my picture taken with The Rent is Too Damn High’s Jimmy McMillan. I’ve listened to Karl Rove rant about the Citizens United case in the cozy parlor of Hofstra Hall. Nervous out of my mind, I’ve talked to my heroes Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein at the backstage of Adams Playhouse. And now, I’m sitting in the media filing room with some of the best journalists in the world to cover a presidential debate taking place literally in my backyard.

Yes, parking at Hofstra can be a pain when you’re in a rush to class. It's hard to jump over the huge puddles that form when it rains. Sometimes the food does seem overpriced. But it’s hard to find a college campus without similar complaints. Overall, these are small prices to pay for a school that can get not just politicians but also Snoop Dogg and Jimmy Fallon to perform on campus.

It’s an honor to represent the school’s oldest club in an event that can affect the course of American leadership. But when the media leaves and the gates come down again, students will be left with more than a Unispan that narrates Hofstra’s history. They’ll have the memories of a spotlight that few schools get to experience.