CU students feel shut out over political debate

Posted at 6:49 PM, Sep 28, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-28 20:49:20-04

It’s the debate, before the actual Republican presidential candidate debate.

Should University of Colorado-Boulder students have more access to watch the debate in person?

Right now, the Republican National Committee and CNBC has opened up 100 of the 1000 tickets for the October 28 event at the Coors Event Center for people with direct CU ties.

A group of students have formed an online social media campaign called ‘Student Voices Count,’ with the intention of pushing for more student representation.

“This event was initially announced as a really good opportunity for students to be involved in something huge and as it turns out, we’re not,” said Julian Taranow, who is part of the movement.

Students tell 7NEWS they are puzzled why the Republican Party would hold a debate on a college campus and then not connect with the students.

“It’s a television spectacle as everyone has been saying, but why should we not be in the audience, we want to as a community just be there, be seen, it’s fake otherwise,” said Taranow.

Nobody denies that this is geared for television. According to the Republican National Committee, 24 million people tuned into the first Republican debate, 22 million for the second and as many are expected for the third being held at CU-Boulder.

The Republican National Committee told 7NEWS that's roughly 10% of the seating capacity of the Coors Events Center which is typical for these debates. 

“These debates are designed for a television audience and the millions of people who will tune in. We look forward to the attention an event of this scale will bring the University,” said Fred Brown, Republican National Committee spokesman.

The University said there was a misunderstanding from the beginning about how many people would be able to attend the debate.

The University is holding several events surrounding the debate and are hopeful the students will take advantage of them.

“We will have students at the debate, but we also have many other opportunities, we’ll have watch parties, we’re going to have lectures from professors, there will be chances for our students to volunteer at the debate,” said Ryan Huff, spokesperson for CU-Boulder.

A U.S. Congressman is also getting involved and supporting the student’s effort.

A spokesperson for U.S. Congressman Jared Polis confirms Polis is sending a letter to the University Chancellor asking for more student support and involvement in the political process.

7NEWS has been able to get a copy of the letter, which reads as follows:

September 28, 2015

Dear Chancellor DiStefano,

I’m writing today about the third GOP presidential debate that will be held on your campus at the University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder) next month. Students at CU Boulder have recently reached out to me to share some of their frustrations with not being more involved with the event.

When it was announced in a July press release that CU Boulder would be hosting this debate, you are quoted as saying that the event would be a “memorable experience for the University community.”

However, since then, the RNC and CNBC have only agreed to distribute 100 tickets for the entire 30,000-plus campus community, despite the fact that the debate venue seats more than 10,000. 

That’s insulting. While we’re excited that CU Boulder will host the debate, it’s not very useful for the University to go through the expense and difficulty of hosting it if students can’t even attend or meaningfully participate.

This isn’t about politics – whether you’re right, left, or center, if you’re a member of the University community you should have every opportunity to meaningfully participate in one of the biggest political debates of the past four years. That’s why I’m urging you to work closely with the RNC and CNBC to allocate drastically more tickets for the University community.  I know this is something the University is capable of, as demonstrated in 2012 when your campus hosted a campaign rally for President Obama that was attended by more than 13,000 students and community members.

I’m no expert, but I’ve never seen video cameras so big that it requires taking up thousands of seats in an arena to get good shots from multiple angles. 

I also encourage you to brainstorm other avenues to foster more meaningful participation and involvement with CU Boulder students and faculty members. 

Thanks for your review and consideration. 

Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO)

Being a part of the process is all the students say they want.

“We have everybody from the far right to the far left and everything in between working on this together, we all feel that the political system just doesn’t represent us as a campus, as students or as individuals properly and we want to work towards fixing that,” said Julian Taranow.

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