Chancellor's Corner: Student tickets and the GOP debate

Published: Oct. 2, 2015
Over the past two weeks, our campus community has been energized by some great discussions and student activism regarding ticket allotments for the upcoming Republican presidential candidate debate on Oct. 28. I have been impressed with our students’ enthusiasm for and interest in this historic moment. Those who say that the 18- to 24-year-old demographic doesn’t care about politics or the future of our country are obviously not talking about CU-Boulder students.
Much has been said in the media and online in recent weeks – some true, some false – about debate ticketing, the campus’ reasoning for hosting this event and how it is being funded. So let me set the record straight.
  • The debate is being produced and led by CNBC. They determine the audience size, debate format and other aspects of the event. The Republican National Committee is in charge of ticket distribution.
  • Months ago, when CU-Boulder agreed to host the debate, our campus was allotted 50 tickets. In August, we requested more tickets and the RNC agreed to provide us with a total of 100. We have requested additional tickets, but we don’t yet know if that will be fruitful. The majority of CU’s allotment will go to students.
  • Some have asked: Why wouldn’t you fill the entire 11,000-seat Coors Events Center? The answer is that this is not a public event designed to accommodate the maximum number of spectators, this is a TV broadcast created and produced by CNBC with what amounts to a thousand-person studio audience. The network needs room for an extensive stage set-up, lighting, cameras and other equipment. It’s not the same layout as hosting a basketball game. Historically, presidential debates are not seen by large in-house audiences. For example, just 300 people were able to attend the last Republican debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.
  • CU will be providing the Coors Events Center rental, police, security and some other expenses at no cost. These are the basic conditions for all venues hosting televised debates this year. In return, our university will be garnering unprecedented national and international media coverage. More than 20 million people around the world watched each of the previous two Republican presidential debates. Furthermore, we expect about 500 journalists to be on campus for the debate, many of whom will provide stories and informational pieces about the campus to their national and international markets. That type of coverage helps increase the broad recognition of CU-Boulder’s name and extends the reputation of our university, enhancing the value of a CU-Boulder degree for our students worldwide. 
  • The costs for the debates will not be funded by taxpayer money, tuition dollars or student fees. Expenses will be paid from private funds dedicated to campus management and from campus insurance premium rebates. College budgets, academic programs and scholarships will not be affected. 
While limited, the majority of CU’s tickets will be distributed to faculty and students whose areas of study have a direct educational tie to the American election process, politics, its media coverage and the economy – which is the topic of the debate. The provost will consult with the deans and offer eight faculty members the opportunity to attend and invite four students to attend with each of the faculty members. Some tickets will also be provided directly to the CU Student Government to distribute as they deem appropriate to students. 
Even if you don’t get a ticket, you will still have plenty of opportunities to be a part of this historic event on our campus: 
  • Student watch party: On the evening of Oct. 28, CU Student Government will host a watch party in the University Memorial Center Glenn Miller Ballroom. We will be inviting presidential candidates to stop by after the debate. While we cannot guarantee appearances, we are doing everything we can to encourage them to interact with our students. More detail on this event will be available in the coming weeks.
  • Foreign affairs primer: The International Affairs Program will host “Global GOP: A Foreign Affairs Primer for the Republican Debate” on Oct. 27 – the night before the debate. Three CU-Boulder faculty members; Christopher Hill, dean of Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver and former Ambassador to Iraq; and Larry Kudlow, senior contributor at CNBC, will talk about global topics and controversies for the GOP debate.
  • CNBC journalist events: We are also working with CNBC to bring its journalists into our classrooms for discussions and teaching opportunities with students ahead of the debate. 
I would urge you to take advantage of these opportunities. I would also ask our faculty, as appropriate, to use the backdrop of this debate as a chance to discuss presidential politics, campaigns, economic issues, media coverage and other related topics in their classrooms.
I also want to remind the campus community that the debate will pose some traffic and parking impacts from Oct. 27 to 29. The bulk of these impacts will be on the afternoon and evening of the debate – Wednesday, Oct. 28. Just as soon as we know the specific road and parking lot impacts, we will share that information with the campus community in an upcoming edition of CU-Boulder Today.
Thank you for all of the letters and outreach on this event, and thank you for everything that you do to make CU-Boulder a great institution.
Philip P. DiStefano