Student allocation of tickets: Let the debate begin!

As the Presidential debate on campus at UM draws closer, the administration will be charged with the task of planning how to decide which students will be in attendance. While the final number of tickets available is expected to be low, there is no set-in-stone number as of yet. Initially, it was decided that a student lottery would be used to allot the tickets.

The Presidential debate on campus next fall will be a monumental moment for this University, its student body, faculty, staff and alumni. We must ensure every aspect of it is done in the best possible way. A lottery does two things: it makes possible some students will obtain tickets despite a lack of serious interest, and it sends a wrong message about the significance of this event. The political process should be accessible to everyone. Because the debate is televised, all have access to it. Attending the debate in person goes beyond access; it enters the realm of privilege and should be treated as such. Without effort required to obtain a ticket, students may go simply to tell people they were there.

A lottery serves its purpose well… for football games. By implementing the lottery system, we would be equating the debate to a football game; as I know this isn’t the intended message, it isn’t the correct choice. President Shalala asked me to submit a proposal for a better way to allocate tickets and said she would “review the ideas carefully.” This is my proposal:

To ensure those who get tickets really want to be there, students should put forth effort to demonstrate desire. An application process could accomplish this. The application would include the standard listing of credentials, as well as a number of short essays designed to show the applicant’s desire. Prompts could range from, “State why you wish to attend the debate and what you would take away personally from such an experience” to “Remark about a pivotal Presidential debate of the past and how it affected the election of that year.”

The short essays need not be excessively long, but just enough to show who wants to be at the debate for the right reasons. The hardest question about this proposal: who judges?

Since the debate is a bipartisan event meant to spark involvement in the election process, it’s only proper to mirror that with the judging. A panel consisting of the chairs and vice-chairs of the Miami-Dade Republican and Democratic parties, coupled with two University officials, would be perfect. It would be a great way to bring the parties together in the name of fostering political growth at UM, as well as create more buzz and excitement surrounding the debate. Chairmen from both parties said they would be more than willing to help UM by joining such a panel.

Keep in mind, this is one writer’s opinion, and appropriate to the subject matter, everything is up for debate!

Don Donelson can be contacted at