My Experiences as a 2012 Presidential Debate Volunteer

Hofstra student Jeanine Russaw writes from behind the scenes leading up to the 2012 Presidential Debate.

As a 2012 Presidential Debate Volunteer at Hofstra University, the only thing I really should say is that “I’m really happy that the debate is coming to Hofstra and I’m grateful to have the opportunity to work for the event.”

This is how we (as volunteers) had been told to respond to any possible questions asked of us by media.

During the very first training session, we were given a rather motivating speech. Things such as the selectiveness of the volunteer choosing process and the various celebrities and media personnel that would be on campus were discussed.

A hush fell over the room; I’m pretty sure I can speak for all of the volunteers in that room in saying the level of excitement we had was unfathomable.

The feeling turned into awe when we were told how discreet we would all have to be until the debate was over. We were told not to say anything about our duties, give hints about where we are, or post pictures of our credentials (for fear they could be copied) and locations until the end of the debate. We were even told not to express any partisan beliefs because the school must remain “unbiased to a particular candidate.”

As a student to be present on campus during the same time as the President of America, I will say this: Hofstra has in one day completely transformed from a school, to a media magnet. From the perspective of someone able to see into the arena where the debate has taken place as well as have complete as access to media outlets; it was hectic to say the least.

Every news source from MSNBC to ABC to CBS has trucks and stages stationed around campus, even though they also have nice accommodations in a portion of the university known as the “Media Filing Center.”

The media were not the only people on campus in the days leading up to the debate; members of President Obama’s secret service could also be seen lurking in the shadows. The same day they came around, I was told to pick up both my volunteer and secret service credentials. This was a must; anyone without both of these would not have access to spots on campus as Hofstra went into lockdown on October 15 at 3 p.m.

This made it particularly hard for students – myself included – participating Democracy in Performance. My mom was planning to come to see me perform, but nonresidents were not allowed in residents’ halls between 3 p.m. on October 14, until after the debate takes place.

However, it is not a bad thing. These may seem like negatives, but there is a certain sense of adrenaline that comes with the commotion on campus. There are many positive things that go along with my duties, like being featured on ABC and CBS (courtesy of the volunteer committee) and being able to shadow members of the media the night of the debate.

Most people think volunteers get into the debate hall, but that is not the case. Only 200 lucky students get to attend, and they are selected completely by random. However, the volunteers get to do work behind-the-scenes and experience things students otherwise would not. I am ecstatic to be a part of this once in a lifetime chance.

Thank you Hofstra University, and all of the people that made the exciting events this month possible!

Tom Brunelle November 01, 2012 at 05:05 PM
Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone who lost a precious loved one in Hurricane Sandy; and to those whose property was damaged or destroyed, as well. And with respect, I must remind all of your readers who will now rely on FEMA and help from our remarkable local, state and Federal Government resources to rebuild their lives, that former Governor Romney and Congressman Paul Ryan plan to decimate FEMA and many other Federal programs that they claim are "unnecessary" and "wasteful". Remember, they and their friends can just dip into their offshore accounts to repair their homes...can you?


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