Gov. Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama sat before crowds of 750 students and local supporters on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively. They were interviewed by Univision journalists Jorge Ramos and Maria Elena Salinas for a broadcast on the Spanish station. Candidates have been looking to garner as much support from the state of Florida, which has a total of 29 electoral votes and is considered a powerful swing state during this election.
Senior Connie Fossi attended the event, and asked Romney a question about his stance on student loans.
“I decided to ask that question because obviously I highly depend on the help I get from financial aid,” Fossi said. “That’s one of the major concerns – not only for me, but for many students in UM – because this is an expensive university.”
The event was conducted in a Q&A format and focused on issues of interest to the Latino community. Romney’s session with the journalists lasted 35 minutes, while the session with Obama is scheduled to last an hour.
Still, students like Fossi do not think one event can have a major impact on the Hispanic voter opinion.
“I don’t think one event can change the Latino vote,” she said. “I don’t think one event is enough to change the perspective Latinos have over Romney or over Obama.”
Of the 750 total tickets, UM was given approximately 380 for each event, with 99 percent of those tickets going to students, according to Rudy Fernandez, vice president for government affairs. Student Affairs was responsible for distributing the tickets according to the rules imposed by each campaign and by Univision, who rented the BankUnited Center Fieldhouse.
“We thought it was very important to engage as many students as possible in these two important events,” said Pat Whitely, vice president for student affairs.
Of the remaining tickets for each event, Univision distributed approximately 75, and each campaign distributed the other 300 to local supporters.
The event with Romney on Wednesday night, as per his campaign’s request, was only open to members of the UM College Republicans, the Federalist Society and presidents of certain organizations, such as the Federacion de Estudiantes Cubanos (the Federation of Cuban Students, known as FEC) and SpectrUM, the LGBT student organization on campus. FEC, for instance, received nine tickets for its entire executive board.
Although the Obama campaign also guaranteed tickets to members of certain organizations, such as UM Young and College Democrats, the remainder of the tickets were distributed through a lottery.
The decision to hold the event in the BankUnited Center Fieldhouse was based on considerations about the taping of the program, “Meet the Candidates.”
Although students have expressed complaints about the small venue and limited number of tickets, Fernandez believes the university’s decision to adapt to Univision’s stipulations was necessary.
“We believe the plusses of doing an event like this, even if it’s in a smaller venue, far outweigh the predicament of the fact that there’s a huge demand for tickets and very little supply,” he said.
To accommodate students who could not attend, the university held a watch party in the UC.
Two 50-inch screens streamed the event live on Wednesday. The watch party during Obama’s visit will be held Thursday at 2:15 p.m.
Senior Peter Leitten attended Wednesday’s watch party, but thought the school handled the event poorly.
“I was disappointed with the way the watch party was handled, because the monitors didn’t work for the first five minutes of the speech so I had to go on my laptop to watch it,” he said.
Junior Paola Giraldo, however, believes the watch party was a good idea.
“As a resident in Eaton, there are not many facilities to watch what’s going on in the world,” she said. “It was a very good opportunity.”