With the U.S. presidential election only 37 days away, the two candidates, former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump are set to take the stage for their first debate on Tuesday, Sept. 29. At the University of Miami, students will be able to watch the first debate on the Foote Green at a watch party sponsored by the Butler Center for Service and Leadership.
In past years, the Butler Center has sponsored debate watch parties during the general elections. Andrew Weimer, the Director of the Butler Center, has had to adapt this tradition to comply with the new COVID-19 restrictions.
“This year we decided as a group it would be best to have it outside,” Weimer said. “We’ve seen some success in other events and I believe that if done very correctly we can have a wonderful event outside.”
Months of planning from the different organizations working together, such as the College Republicans, UDems, and Get Out the Vote, were required to make the event possible. These months of preparation will be put to the test on Tuesday, where students will have to follow guidelines to ensure the success of the event.
“It’s going to be very strict when it comes to our public health rules and our campus policies,” Weimer said. “If there are any violations we will not have people at the event.”
These rules include wearing masks at all times, staying six feet apart in single file lines and enforcing physical distancing. Attendees will be grouped in outdoor circles with no more than four people per cluster.
Tuesday’s debate is the first in a series of three debates between the two candidates, one of which will be held at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, only a 20-minute drive from UM. On-campus, students are looking forward to the debate and what it means for the upcoming general election.
“There’s not really a feel of an election cycle, so it’s going to be exciting to get that back in, even if it’s only forty-some days before the election,” said Griffin Alexander, a senior studying marine affairs and ecosystem science and an executive board member for the College Republicans.
Rachel Stempler, a junior majoring in history and political science and president of UDems, is another one of the organizations helping with this event.
“I’m really excited to do an in-person thing with covid going on,” Stempler said.
Both Stempler and Weiner view this event as an opportunity for UM students to come together and be a community during a polarizing political cycle.
In addition to giving students a community-based option to watch the debate, the event aims to help encourage students to vote. All attendees will be required to sign a pledge to vote to make UM number one in the ACC in voting.
Get Out the Vote is UM’s voter registration organization. They will be registering students to vote at Tuesday’s event, as the deadline to register to vote in Florida is Oct. 5.
“I think it’s always important that young people get out to vote,” Weimer said. In addition to registering people to vote at the event, Get Out The Vote will be hosting an event at the Watsco Center ticketing area on Oct. 1 at 7:00 pm to register out-of-state students to vote.
“Our votes are important,” said Geethika Kataru, a sophomore political science and film major who is the communications director of Dems. “We need to get out and make sure our voices are heard at the polls.”
Gates for the watch party open at 8:30 pm. Other campus organizations sponsoring the event include the Division of Student Affairs, Student Life, Student Activities and Student Organizations, Housing and Residential Life, Orientation and Commuter Student Involvement, Multicultural Student Affairs, LGBTQ Student Center and University of Miami Debate.