As the presidential and vice presidential debates immerse the country in heated discussion, the leaders of HWS Votes seek to create a similar level of civic engagement on campus.
On Friday, Oct. 26, a congressional debate between the two candidates running for the 23rd District of New York will be held at 7 p.m. in Albright Auditorium on the campus of Hobart and William Smith Colleges. Incumbent U.S. Rep. Thomas Reed, a Republican from Corning, is running for reelection against Nate Shinagawa, a Democrat and member of the Tompkins County legislature. Professor of Political Science Iva Deutchman will moderate the event. (The debate will be broadcast live on WEOS-FM 89.7 and 90.3.)
“Having esteemed members of the political electoral process convene at HWS gives us the rare opportunity to hear candidates unfiltered, void of media spin,” says David Luna ’14, co-president of HWS Votes who helped organize the debate. “In a presidential election year, what better way to discuss the stakes than with local candidates who are both towing their respective party lines?”
When discussing the event with members of the Geneva community, Luna says there was a unanimous call from citizens to hear directly from their representatives. While some seek answers to specific policy surrounding taxes, other constituents have simply not had the chance to learn about each representative’s platform.
Although many students at the Colleges are not constituents of the 23rd congressional district, Luna sees much to be gained from the experience. “The HWS community stands to learn from active participation and seeing the theories and arguments learned in class on display by skilled politicians,” says Luna. “Students of all backgrounds and academic interests stand to gain from this event because they will be an active participant in the learning process.”
With the upcoming presidential election, Luna has seen the political climate of the Colleges transform. To date, Luna and co-president of HWS Votes Olivia Lowenberg ’15 have assisted more than 730 students to register to vote or obtain a ballot through TurboVote. Repsonse to the TurboVote partnership was so overwhelming that HWS was the first school of the 56-partnered schools nationwide to reach 25 percent of its student body. Today, the Colleges are first in percentage of enrollment, with 35 percent of the student body registered through TurboVote.
“Nothing could galvanize a campus more than two electoral candidates exchanging issue-based arguments,” says Luna. “Debates are the only part of the campaign where voters have a chance to see the two candidates in the same place at the same time, answering the same questions and responding to each other’s arguments in real-time.”
The debate can be viewed at