Debate watch parties bring tense election to campus
The smell of popcorn and intense anticipation filled the Student Center South’s overflowing Monumental Stairs. Even though he cannot vote, graduate student Mario Lopez was there to watch.
Lopez was one of hundreds of students who gathered in various spots around campus Tuesday night to witness presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump debate for the first time.
“He’s not going to be able to kick out 11 million immigrants,” Lopez said.
All were attentive
Lopez had immigrated, legally, to the U.S. when he was 8 years old.
Prior to that, his family waited 10 years in Mexico before receiving the green light to move.
“We need to fix the immigration system in a way that is sensible and reasonable,” Lopez said. “We need to be thinking about the families that we might break up in this country.”
The outcome of this election will affect Lopez. It will have an even greater effect on the 11 million undocumented immigrants whom he expressed concern for.
Boris Penaloza, a Panamanian immigrant and doctoral candidate in electrical engineering, compared Trump to political leaders like Benito Mussolini and “psychopaths,” as Penaloza called them, who ran for office in his home country.
“Usually, in every country, the debates are kind of useless,” Penaloza said. “At the end of the day, most of the things they say there aren’t what they are going to do. But at least it gives you a screenshot of what the mentality of the candidate is.”
‘Better with beer’
The College Republicans at the University of Houston hosted a watch party for the Presidential Debate on Monday night at Calhoun’s Rooftop. Students drank beer and jeered at the screens as Trump and Clinton faced off.
For Matthew Wiltshire, history senior and director of public relations for the College Republicans, the watch party was a social event.
“Politics should be fun, and it’s better with beer,” Wiltshire said.
The election’s extreme partisanship was not on display at Calhoun’s as Democrats and Republicans shook hands, played drinking games and joked with each other. Gwyneth Kemp, an anthropology senior and member of the College Republicans, attended purely for entertainment.
“It’s not just about watching the debate — it’s being able to ridicule it with my friends,” Kemp said.
Time for a difference
Students at the Honors College debate watch party settled into the rows of maroon couches at the Honors Commons with big bowls of ice cream.
The Honors College Student Governing Board provided snacks and buzzword bingo for attendees.
Whenever a candidate said “All Lives Matter” or “Make America Great Again,” students were one step closer to winning bingo.
Computer information systems senior David Montalvo was impressed that Trump and Clinton discussed race relations, but he wanted to see more from the presidential candidates.
“It’s interesting that they didn’t mention anything specifically about Black Lives Matter,” Montalvo said. “They didn’t talk too much about gun safety even though Trump did mention his endorsement.
“I think I would’ve liked them to talk more about Obamacare, health care and gun safety.”
Still, Montalvo was part of a minority of UH students who thought Trump won the debate.
While he said that Clinton had
a lot to say about issues in need of change, only Trump would be able to take action.
Back in the Student Center, chemical engineering senior Jerry Wright was not sure who won.
He liked that Trump is an outsider to traditional U.S. politics.
“I don’t know if I agree with all of his policies or his antics, but I think we need something different than a normal politician,” Wright said. “He’s definitely unorthodox and he’s not that articulate all the time. He is kind of childish, somewhat, but I just don’t like politics in general. I want somebody different.”
McRea Peavy, Marialuisa Rincon, Ness Tiryakioglu and Alycia Olson contributed reporting.