Debate prep ’92: Murphy who?

Debate prep began in earnest in September 2015 when the Commission on Presidential Debates selected Washington University in St. Louis as one of four host sites for 2016, giving us a little over a year to make arrangements. But in 1992, the university had just one week to get facilities and infrastructure ready for our national close-up.

It was a heroic, successful effort. But it was 1992, and things have changed a bit. Here’s a short list of a few things we — and our students — were doing in the days leading up to the Oct. 11, 1992, debate:

Phone LinesPhone home: In 1992, the university installed 12,500 additional phone lines on campus. Southwestern Bell set up rows of pay phones for reporters who dictated their stories or who needed additional phone lines for electronic submission to their media outlets.


FilmFilm developing: In 1992, the university turned showers in the Athletics Complex into photo-developing and -transmitting facilities, and had student volunteers running film from the debate hall to the labs. Now, it’s all digital.




Murphy who?  A popular t-shirt worn by students on campus in 1992 depicted the “top 10 reasons” for missing the debate. Reason No. 3: “Babysitting Murphy Brown’s baby,” a political reference undoubtedly lost on today’s students.


Hear ye, hear ye: In 1992, placards were hung around campus for announcements and debate updates. Now, information comes electronically via the web or through Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram. What’s a placard?

Read more debate history here and in the Aug. 22 online issue of Washington Magazine.