Four old white guys are coming to UNF, but they aren’t professors, donors or grandfathers of incoming freshmen. They aren’t lecturing at the University Center, selling kettle corn in Osprey Plaza or even sculpting an obscure piece of art at a random part of campus.
They’re coming and bringing hordes of media, supporters and dissidents with them. But if you’re a fee-paying student at UNF, chances are you won’t have anything to do with them. You won’t be able to see them, you won’t be able to hear them speak and you certainly won’t be able to park anywhere near your destination while they’re here.
Yet UNF administrators are regarding this as a landmark achievement for UNF – with some calling it the biggest event in UNF history.
Sure, it will give the university some national, and even international, airtime – if folks in Botswana are really watching the U.S. Republican debates prior to early season primaries closely. The beautiful Lazzara Performance Hall will be the backdrop, and UNF’s public relations staff has ensured that any camera shot taken on this campus will include the university letters so all debate junkies will know where their favorite – or least favorite – Republicans are tearing one another a new one this week.
However, to say that this will increase the value of UNF’s degree, as UNF President John Delaney said in his conversation with the Spinnaker Jan. 23 (page 4 Special Section), might be stretching the accolades a bit too far.
Will potential employers, upon seeing UNF on your diploma, remember that warm winter of 2012, when the Republicans were knocking one another’s teeth out for the right to represent a fractured-at-best Republican Party in Washington? Then, will they remember back to the Florida debates, before anything was decided, to that pretty little theater at that pretty little school that hosted Wolf and company and say, “Wow, you graduated from there? You must know what you’re talking about.”?
Not likely. It doesn’t really work like that. Besides, UNF is one of many. UNF is the 10th university or college to host a debate on campus since June 2011, and there are bound to be more as the election season rolls on.
There is some value to this event, though. Some communication and political science students are getting tickets to the event. As of press time, UNF had acquired 42 tickets to the actual live debate in the 1,300-seat Lazzara Performance Hall, distributed amongst communication and political science students and to others at Student Government and the President’s office’s discretion. Four hundred fifty additional tickets have been dispersed to students and faculty by communication and political science departments and Student Government for the adjacent 700-seat Robinson Theater, where the debate will be shown on a big screen.
In the meantime, the other 15,000 plus students will have nowhere to go. That day, despite Parking Services’ best efforts, there will be nowhere to park. Yes, Lot 53 is a large lot that is never at capacity, but it’s never empty, either. As media and politicos filter in Jan. 26, this campus will get harder and harder to access.
And classes? Forget about it. If you have a class in the Fine Arts Center, especially in the late afternoon and evening, no professors in their right mind will put their students, and themselves, through the headache of getting there.
Many students may wonder then, for all the hullabaloo, what do students get out of this?
Students get the pride of being able to tell friends and family that Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul came to our college in 2012 only to continue their stampede of insults, lofty promises and desperate moves in an attempt to have a shot at the White House.
This political parade through colleges and convention centers is supposed to drum up support for the Republican Party and its candidates, but by not letting locals into the debate, what really are they doing for themselves? A potato farmer in Idaho with cable will have as good a view of the debate as 99.74 percent of the UNF student body. Most students will be left with two choices: avoid the traffic and go home, where they may or may not watch the proceedings, or wander amongst protesters of the candidates on the Green.
In other words, as the entourage of old white men invade UNF, students – voting members of the community – can either stay away, thanking the GOP for giving them a night off of class, or stand up and protest their existence as potential presidential candidates.
As shown in the article accompanying the Spinnaker primary poll on page 7 Special Section, students generally don’t care about this primary. Maybe it would help if they could participate in the conversation with candidates. It’s not enough just to hold debates on college campuses. You must actually talk to the students while you’re there.
It’s hard to argue against student apathy when the candidates they might vote for don’t appear to care about the communities they enter.
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