Campus hosts pair of viewing parties for first presidential debate

College Democrats and College Republicans held an impromptu discussion on race relations in The Burrow after the event.


A variety of student groups congregated at The Burrow to watch the first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, including the College Republicans and College Democrats. Max Jackson | Staff Photographer



he Burrow, a bar and grill on Florida Atlantic’s Boca Raton campus, was filled with about 150 people Monday night as students of differing political backgrounds sat down to watch the first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Black Greek letter organizations Alpha Kappa Alpha, Alpha Phi Alpha and NAACP at FAU hosted the event at the campus bar, which was also sponsored by Student Government and LEAD and Serve. Both the College Democrats and College Republicans attended the event.

Catherine Theriault, the president of College Democrats, said the matchup was drawing so much attention because of the contrasts between the candidates.

“I think it’s because they have two completely different temperaments so it’s going to be exciting to see them go face to face,” she said. “I think Donald Trump has his own style and you can never really prepare for that.”

The crowd had impassioned reactions to the debate as members of College Democrats and College Republicans engaged in heated discussions regarding race relations with law enforcement at the event’s conclusion, the first of three scheduled presidential debates.

“You all are statist sheep,” Alan Friederwitzer, a Bernie Sanders supporter, interrupted. “Down with the state! Anarchy!”

The scene was calmer across campus at Living Room Theaters, where Stephen Heidt, an assistant professor in the FAU School of Communication and Multimedia Studies, moderated a post-debate discussion among members of the audience.

“I think what [Trump] had to do to win the debate was look presidential, look in control and I think he did anything but that,” Bruce Feldman, an FAU alumni, said during the discussion.

The 90-minute, commercial-free melee allowed for a barrage of exchanges with two cameras fixed on the candidates.

After remarking on the multiple decades Clinton has spent in public office, Trump asked her, “Why are you just thinking of all of these solutions now?”

The Burrow was filled with audible disbelief from Clinton supporters and laughter and clapping from Trump supporters.

Clinton fired back when Trump mocked her for staying home and preparing for the debate while he campaigned.

“I’ve also prepared to be president and I think that’s a good thing,” Clinton said. The Burrow responded to the jest with applause.

While many viewers tuned in for entertainment value, several students like freshman English major Samiha Hossain found the debate lacking in substance on important issues.

“I don’t think they’re answering any of the questions,” Hossain said. “It’s like they’re trying to come up with the best comebacks, they’re not addressing anything.”

At Living Room Theaters, one of the loudest jeers in the crowd came when Trump said he has formed a good relationship with African Americans.

The NAACP of FAU was in attendance at The Burrow and participated in applauding Clinton for saying the country needs to address systemic racism.

In the latest Quinnipiac University poll, Trump trails Clinton 66-24 among non-white voters, while Trump leads Clinton 50-44 among white voters when in a four-candidate race.

Luke Turner, the director of political affairs for the College Democrats, found the event a great way to discuss political ideas centering around race.

“I’m looking forward to talking more about the obstruction of racism within our police jurisdiction,” Turner said. “I feel like we need to really talk more about educating people, more so our police officers on how to de-escalate something.”

Justin Atkins, the vice president of the College Democrats, was seen debating the racial discrimination of stop-and-frisk policies with Andrew Paz of the College Republicans. Atkins said he felt like Trump dodged a question on race relations.

“He rerouted that question to focus on black-on-black crime in Chicago,” he said. “Instead of focusing on how we can overcome police brutality, training, community policing, he focused on blacks killing blacks.”

There has not been an on-campus viewing party announced yet for the next debate on Oct. 9.

Taylor Craig is the lead video journalist with the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet him @taylorcraig.