Wright State’s mock presidential debate will feature a nationally known journalist, university students representing the candidates’ views and a high-tech tool to measure audience response.
The 60-minute debate will be held Tuesday, Sept. 13, in the Student Union Apollo Room beginning at 7 p.m. as part of the university’s Presidential Lecture Series. It is free and open to the public. The debate will be preceded by a 5:30 p.m. reception and feature a nonpartisan voter registration table.
The mock debate is designed to maintain the excitement that was created when Wright State was selected to host the first actual debate, Sept. 26, said Lukas Wenrick, president of the Student Government Association. That debate will now be held at Hofstra University.
“The decision to have a mock debate was a no-brainer for us,” said Wenrick. “We wanted to move forward, we wanted to promote civic engagement in the region and wanted to continue the Wright State passion we had for the debate.”
Anchoring the debate will be Alexander Heffner, host of “The Open Mind” on PBS. The journalist and civic educator has reported extensively on the youth vote and the political engagement of young voters. His writing has appeared in leading newspapers and magazines and his analysis has been featured on nationally broadcast media outlets.
Heffner founded and edited SCOOP08 and SCOOP44, the first-ever online national student newspapers covering the 2008 presidential campaign and the first year of the Obama presidency. He also directed a nonprofit initiative for which he designed and taught civic education and journalism in underserved New York City classrooms.
“He is going to be an excellent moderator because he has done a lot of research on millennials and our behavior, political trends,” said Nathan Price, assistant director of outreach and collaboration for the Student Government Association. “So we thought since we have a lot of millennials on campus, it would be excellent to have him moderate the debate.”
Four students from the Wright State Model United Nations Team will represent the presidential candidates, two for Democrat Hillary Clinton and two for Republican Donald Trump. The students will articulate the policies of the candidates that emerged from the political conventions.
The Model UN is a conference similar to that of the United Nations in which students participate as delegates to various UN committees. The participants research and formulate political positions based on the actual policies of the countries they represent.
The students representing the candidates are Crystal Burns, a political science major from Morrow; Daniel Palmer, an accountancy major from Springboro; Cody Smith, a political science major from Vandalia; and Amanda Baker, an international and comparative politics major from Sheridan, Indiana.
Some of the questions that will be asked of the students will be selected from 34 questions submitted by a group of high school students.
Nathan Balasubramanian, policy director of the Graduate Student Assembly and chief policy officer for the Student Government Association, said an audience response tool called Microsoft Pulse will be used during the debate.
It will create live audience feedback by giving viewers of the debate the ability to use web-enabled devices to respond every five seconds to the answers. Their “pulses” — ranging from happy to sad — will be flashed on a big screen for everyone to see. At the end of the debate, a final response graph will be created to measure the outcome.
“I think the mock debate is going to spur some discourse on the campus,” said Wenrick. “Anyone who comes to the debate should leave knowing a few things they didn’t know before and being educated on some issues from some of the most educated researchers on our campus.”