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University of Texas reaches out after broadcasters, Texas Democrats brush off students


March 3, 2008/8.46

National media have been very clear. The Democratic candidates need Texas to secure their party’s nomination. Both parties have gone to the media proclaiming their massive efforts to reach young voters. The Democratic Party needed something big to grab attention (and voters) for the Texas primaries and both the Clinton and Obama campaigns had big plans for Texas.
   First, UT students and staff received the great news that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama would be debating on the University of Texas campus in the Recreational Sports Center. Shortly thereafter they received the bad news. It would be a closed event, invitation only. Reactions across campus ranged from disbelief to outrage. How could the party that so vehemently talked up the importance of youth participation lock out the students of the campus hosting their debate, particularly in a building that’s funded 100 per cent from student fees? Students didn’t just feel swept aside, many felt insulted. When asked why the broadcasters, CNN and Univision, could not use a larger venue, since there were several to choose from in Austin, CNN claimed they couldn’t use a larger space without sacrificing audio quality.
   Finally there came a decision from the Dean of Students to hold a lottery for 400 seats to the event. It was a small victory but at least a percentage of students would get to participate in such a pivotal event.
   ‘The LBJ school was instrumental in bringing the debate here, so when we were talking to folks about this, we felt it was important to have our students be involved,’ said LBJ School Dean James Steinberg, to the Daily Texan (February 15, 2008).
   While this placated some students and staff members, it actually created more hard feelings for others. Many students felt it was far too little, too late. leaving them sensing that their participation in this event (and the campaigns ahead) simply weren’t important to the Democratic Party. (The Texas Democratic Party had 100 tickets to give away for their drawing.)
   The Senate of College Councils, the Office of the Dean of Students, and IntegrityUT came through with a better plan. The debate coincides with the IntegrityUT Week, so a screening was scheduled to be part of the series of events held in celebration of academic integrity at the university. Live music from Texas Renegade was also scheduled. Just in case that wasn’t enough of a draw, Chelsea Clinton was scheduled to make an appearance late in the evening. Unfortunately, her appearance was later cancelled as she was running late from the debate already.
   In all, over 600 students were turned away when the ballroom filled to capacity. As Emily Ramshaw stated in her coverage of the event for The Dallas Morning News, there was ‘No Youth Apathy Here’. Energy and enthusiasm ran high. Obama and Clinton supporters sat and cheered next to each other. As many speculated, a better time was probably had this and other screening parties than at the debate itself. This screening event and the various blogs that covered the debate are all examples of students and student organizations pulling together and making their own rules when it comes to the political world and their participation in it.
   As the event wrapped up with ‘The Eyes of Texas Are upon You’, many in the audience could no doubt sense the irony as the America watches Texas and wonders, as Texas goes, so goes the nation?—M. K. Johnson

M. K. Johnson was Lucire’s ?rst beauty editor in the 1990s to the early 2000s and serves as a regular correspondent.

The Texas ’Crat Spat Blog: blow-by-blow account of the debate

The Eyes of Vanessa Castaneda Are Upon Austin Blog ‘In the Know Account of the Debate’

Palestine Herald’s Robert Rich: ‘Most UT Austin Students Left off “Guest List” for Debate’

Huf?ngton Post: ‘Austin Debate’s Doors Essentially Closed to Texas Dems’

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2 thoughts on ‘University of Texas reaches out after broadcasters, Texas Democrats brush off students

  1. Thank you! Please feel free to spread the word, Dominic, and I will let the author know of your compliments next time I email her.

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