UPDATE: Details on GOP debate still trickling in
Update Feb. 12 5:04 p.m.: According to a press release, UH “does not have debate tickets available. All tickets are managed by the Republican National Committee.”
Update 8:03 p.m.: Director of Media Relations P’nina Topham said details on how students can get tickets will be released in “the next few days.”
Although Theriot-Smith said cancelling classes was discussed as a measure to control parking and traffic woes, Topham said that will not be the case.
“There’s going to be a website created with alternative transportation and updates on street closures,” Topham said. “It will be up by the end of the week.”
She said colleges will be in charge of informing students if their class location is changed as a result of the debate.
Topham said the University’s commitment in hosting the event has been “steadfast.”
“Our experience with NBC News was top-notch,” Topham said. “They were wonderful partners throughout our extensive planning process and exhibited nothing but professionalism and consideration of the University’s interests. We’re pleased that our experience with CNN, the new broadcast partner, has been equally positive.”
Original 5:01 p.m.: After months of speculation, UH announced Wednesday on Twitter that it will host the last Republican presidential debate before the Super Tuesday elections.
The debate will take place Thurs. Feb. 25 in the Moores Opera House and comes less than a week before Texas and 11 other states take to the polls to decide which Republican will earn the party’s presidential nomination.
“The University of Houston is honored to serve as the host-site of this important national conversation,” said University of Houston System Vice Chancellor/University of Houston Vice President of Marketing, Communication and Media Relations Richie C. Hunter, in a press release. “The chance to participate in history isn’t an opportunity taken lightly, and every day, our Cougar community proves time and time again that it’s deserving of a national spotlight.”
Student Government Association President Shaun Theriot-Smith said the University requested tickets for the debate, but it is unknown how they will be divided up or how many it will actually receive.
“We (have) the venue for the event, but CNN and RNC are paying us to host the event,” Theriot-Smith said. “We aren’t spending any money; therefore we don’t have ownership of the event itself. I don’t have any absolute answer to whether or not students will be attending.”
After the original announcement in October that UH would host the debate, the Republican National Committee suspended ties with NBC later that month, causing speculation as to who would host the event. The RNC eventually replaced NBC with CNN. Telemundo and Salem Communications will co-sponsor for the event.
UH entered into a contract with CNN in early February, and with the event secured, the University now looks toward how it will impact students. Theriot-Smith said traffic and transportation are clear concerns.
“We’re already talking to administration about what it will look like to potentially cancel classes that Thursday evening,” Theriot-Smith said. “I think they have already started that conversation, but nobody has made a decision.”
Theriot-Smith said the Arts area, where the Moores Opera House sits, and the Alumni Athletic Center, where the media will be based, will be affected by preparations, but the rest of the campus should run as usual.
Two watch parties are planned in the Student Centers the night of the debate, and SGA will work on voter registration the week leading up to it.
“We have some tentative stuff, but there are still some opportunities to create other events and programs,” Theriot-Smith said.
Student-candidate interaction might be available to students who volunteer for either the candidates’ campaigns, or those which CNN takes on. SGA will determine preliminary volunteers through online applications and subsequent in-person interviews. SGA-approved volunteers will be passed on to CNN for final selection.
“CNN has given us a requirement that they need for volunteers, and they indicated how long the shifts might be and what sort of duties they are requesting and what days,” Theriot-Smith said. “We are giving them a list of verified as students (who) appear professional and are good candidates to be volunteers.”
Full volunteer details will be sent to all students in an email from Theriot-Smith.