Sharing the experience: ‘Yes, I was here’

Students filled Edison Theatre to near capacity to watch the debate. (Photo: Jerry Naunheim Jr.)

Students filled Edison Theatre to near capacity to watch the debate. (Photo: Jerry Naunheim Jr./Washington University)

From Hillman Hall to Holmes Lounge, from the Danforth University Center to the 560 Music Center, from Edison Theatre to Mudd Field, to even the Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine campus, thousands of students, faculty, staff and alumni shared in the debate experience through watch parties.

Alumni & Development sponsored a watch party in Hillman Hall. (Photo: Dan Donovan/Washington University)

Alumni & Development sponsored a watch party in Hillman Hall. (Photo: Dan Donovan/Washington University)

“If the debate wasn’t on our campus, I don’t think I would have come,” said Jonny Moskowitz, a graduate student at the Brown School who watched the debate in Holmes Lounge at the Graduate Professional Council’s event. “I was a history major as an undergrad, so there is an appreciation for saying, ‘Yes I was here.’

“Whether we like it or not, this is a significant election,” he said.

Moskowitz was lucky he got there early. Organizers were turning people away as early as 45 minutes prior to the broadcast as Holmes Lounge had reached capacity.

Michelle St. Paul, vice president for marketing and communication for the council, said they had to shut the doors when attendance hit the 220-person limit for the room but that the event, which served beer, wine and sandwiches, went a long way to building community among all the graduate students.

“This is the highest attendance for any event we’ve held,” she said.

The Fox News Channel set broadcast the debate live, and students gathered on a beautiful night on Mudd Field to watch. (Photo: Whitney Curtis/Washington University)

The Fox News Channel set broadcast the debate live, and students gathered on a beautiful night on Mudd Field to watch. (Photo: Whitney Curtis/Washington University)

Over in Edison Theatre, hundreds of undergraduate students filled that venue to near capacity. Michelle Purdy, assistant professor of education in Arts & Sciences, moderated a panel discussion prior to the debate and was the perfect choice. Her last involvement in a debate on campus was in 2000, when, as Student Union president, she helped welcome the candidates to campus.

The star-studded panel included Suhas Gondi, a senior majoring in biology (neuroscience); Stacy Taubman, founder and CEO of Girls Dreaming Big and Rise Collaborative Workspace; Sarah Kendzior, columnist and contributor to many international and national publications including The Guardian; Dan Butler, associate professor of political science in Arts & Sciences; Carrie Pettus-Davis, assistant professor in the Brown School and director of the Concordance Institute for Advancing Social Justice; and Jason Green, who has worked in President Obama’s White House.

Over at the DUC, the atmosphere was electric as many of the students involved in the Debate Fair moved inside to watch the broadcast. And no matter where the party was held, Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton and Student Union President Kenneth Sng got big cheers when they addressed and welcomed the debate crowd.

Even medical students got in on the hoopla, gathering in Moore Auditorium to watch the debate together. (Photo: Bob Boston/School of Medicine)

Even medical students got in on the hoopla, gathering in Moore Auditorium to watch the debate together. (Photo: Robert Boston/School of Medicine)

Over in Simon Hall, the Washington University women’s ultimate frisbee team assembled to watch the debate together, enjoying chips, salsa and a debate bingo game.

Sophomore Sylvia Snyderman watched in Simon Hall but her experience could have summed up the campus-wide student experience: “Some of us were making jokes, some of us were doing homework — it was all pretty low-key.

“Basically this was a chance for us to get together, do our civic duty and have a lot of fun.”