STORY BY BETH LEVALLEY
Like most of campus, Harvey Ingham room 135 was filled with students eagerly watching the Democratic debate happening on Saturday night.
Unlike the rest of campus, the Student Senate DNC debate watch party partnered with Sidewire, a political news app, to provide insights into the debate along with free water bottles and koozies. Student Senate also provided popcorn, gummy bears, pretzels and lemonade throughout the night.
The other unique feature of this watch party was that no candidate sponsored the event. Because of this, students who were undecided on a candidate or who were generally nonpartisan were more likely to show up to this event.
Which means when the candidates were introduced, it was Student Body President Kevin Maisto’s cameo appearance that received the most applause.
Campus Advancement Senator Olivia O’Hea said that the goal was to give students a chance to see some experts’ thoughts during political season in Iowa. Because O’Hea grew up outside of Iowa, she believes that students don’t recognize the importance that Iowa has on the political season.
In coordinating with Sidewire, O’Hea transfers this thought to the news app that is now available for free.
“The app features news that is Iowa-focused and filters the news that way,” O’Hea said.
The app also features “experts,” where a few Drake University professors are found with their opinions on current events.
Craig Robinson, the founder and a blogger of The Iowa Republican, a website that discusses Republican candidates and current events, was at the watch party and answered questions students had about the debate throughout the night.
Robinson said he jumped at the chance to watch the Democratic debate with Drake students.
“I typically like watching debates alone, especially Republican debates,” Robinson said. “This is a little more relaxed; I’m able to take it in.”
While Robinson knew he would be taking questions from students during the debate, he did not anticipate them being as tough as they were.
“Those questions were tougher than some of the radio or TV interviews I’ve done,” Robinson said. “That one about foreign policy threw me off.”
Although the questions were challenging, Robinson appreciated the discussion happening among students.
“There are a lot of policies being discussed right now that young people are engaged in,” Robinson said. “It’s really encouraging … It impacts all of us on a personal level.”
Robinson was pleased with the turnout of the event and was envious that he wasn’t able to participate in activities like this while he was in college.
First-year senator Cecilia Bernard contributed to the event by setting up, tearing down and taking tickets throughout the night. She was pleased with the amount of students that came and was excited about the activity happening around campus.
“It’s been fun to see the whole room packed,” Bernard said. “We’re so lucky to have events like this, have presidential candidates so close to where we are.”
In terms of having the debate at Drake, Bernard showed her excitement for the recognition Drake has received.
“I kept having to remind myself that the candidates were on this campus,” Bernard said. “Like, I’ve been in Sheslow before. They’re so close in proximity to where I am.”