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BGSU Firelands professor plans debate event

Andy Ouriel • Oct 4, 2012 at 4:17 AM

Stephanie Walls, a BGSU Firelands assistant political science professor, scheduled the special debate watch for her class at the Huron Township campus.

She plans to answer questions and moderate any conversations among students at the Oct. 16 event.  

The second presidential debate will focus on policies domestic and foreign.

Walls, in cooperation with the Register, is inviting all area students and community members to the Oct. 16 debate watch.

“The main benefit is the opportunity to discuss the issues and engage with other people on the topics,” she said. “If you’re watching this is in your family room, you might not necessarily have someone to turn to for an explanation or an opinion.”

While Obama and Romney’s verbal sparring has the potential to get ugly, Walls aims to keep the BGSU Firelands debate watch civil.

She answered several questions about the Oct. 16 event:

Q: Why do you want to host a viewing party for the second presidential debate?

SW: The whole reason why I wanted to do this is to create an opportunity for the students to be able to watch the debate with their peers and with some context provided. Watching a presidential debate can be a bit overwhelming and confusing. So, I wanted to be there to answer questions, provide an introduction and make the information more useful and relevant to students.

Q: Tentatively, what do you have planned for the night?

SW: For about 30 minutes before the debate, I’m going to teach a brief lesson about political debates and tell the students why this is so important. I’ll also let them know about some issues we can expect the candidates to address and help them anticipate the information.

During the debate, my hope is to use commercial breaks to have little mini discussions. Afterward, I’ll be available to answer any questions or for any further discussion.

Q: What issues do you expect both candidates to discuss in two weeks?

SW: The candidates will discuss domestic and foreign policy. I think on domestic policy, they’ll talk about health care reform, because Romney has made it a campaign issue. As far as foreign policy, they will be talking about Afghanistan and other potential threats like Iran.

Q: Why are presidential debates so important for elections?

SW: It’s an opportunity for the candidates to speak directly to a national audience. A lot of messages that we get are through a third party, usually the media. Outside of campaign stops, the voters don’t always have a lot of opportunity to hear directly from the candidates. The debates, historically, have created an advantage for the more likable candidates.

(For example) in 1960, John Kennedy looked a lot better on TV because he used makeup. People who listened to the debate thought (Richard) Nixon won. But people who watched the debate thought Kennedy won.

Q: Who’s invited to your viewing party?

SW: It’s open to all Firelands students and faculty. I’ve made my students aware we will (also) open it up to community students.

Q: Why should people, and more specifically area high school and college students, attend?

SW: One of these two men will be our president in a few months. As citizens, we need to be aware of what the candidates are offering and what they think is best for the country. Coming out and watching the debate and sharing ideas with peers is just a great opportunity to get engaged on these important issues.

Q: If you’ve never watched a presidential debate before, what can you expect?

SW: The candidates have a limited amount of time to talk, so they have to be prepared with responses. Candidates will get cut off, so it’s not really a natural conversation. In this particular debate, they will be taking questions from an audience of undecided voters. People watching a debate can expect to see the candidates interact with regular citizens just like us.

Want to go?

What: BGSU Firelands presidential debate watch Oct. 16, in cooperation with the Register

Where: Cedar Point Center Auditorium, BGSU Firelands campus, 1 University Drive, Huron

When: 8:30-10:30 p.m. Oct. 16

Who: All community members are invited to attend the free event, but it’s specifically geared toward area high school and college students.

Contact: Stephanie Walls at 419-433-5560, or email smwalls@bgsu.edu to make an appointment. School teachers and administrators are encouraged to make reservations.

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