Centre students engage in democratic process through gubernatorial debate
Centre College is committed to educating tomorrow’s citizens for lives of leadership and service in and out of the classroom. Events such as this fall’s Kentucky Gubernatorial Debate, scheduled for Oct. 6 in Newlin Hall at Centre College’s Norton Center for the Arts, gives students the opportunity, regardless of their majors or career plans, to be engaged with the democratic process.
“Centre is a place where students are encouraged to have a voice, to get involved in the conversation, to express their own opinions—but importantly, also respect those of others,” Centre College President John A. Roush said. “By expressing our opinions on important issues in a respectful way, we foster a sense of interconnectedness where civility, inclusion and service are valued.
“We can disagree without being disagreeable,” he continued.
A coin toss to determine the order of Tuesday’s debate, signaling the beginning of debate proceedings, took place on Sept. 30. Representative students from both the Centre Democrats and Centre Republicans organizations were present for the coin flip, including (pictured above right, l to r) Gray Whitsett ’16, Nora Verhoff ’18, Lucas Brooks ’17, Katie Solomon ’16, Caroline Abbott ’18, Dennis Barrett ’16 and Stone Begley ’17. Roush tossed a Centre talent, a coin depicting the College’s seal on one side and Old Centre on the other. The coin landed in favor of Matt Bevin, who will be Candidate A. Jack Conway will be Candidate B.
Students are getting in on the political action in other ways as well. Members from both the Centre Democrat and Centre Republican organizations are creating a live blogging event via a “Chatroll” function on Centre’s website, which anyone on the internet can follow during the debate. Participating students Dexter Horne ’16, Kelli South ’16 and Zach Throne ’16 will blog from their station in the media room alongside members of the press.
Assistant Professor of Politics Benjamin Knoll, who is aiding the live blogging event, is urging students to participate.
“More than anything, political debates are profoundly educational experiences that help inform the public about competing perspectives on the proper role of government in our society,” Knoll explained. “It’s only fitting that these educational experiences take place at Centre, whose mission is to prepare students for lives of learning, leadership and service.”
To date, more than 250 Centre students have submitted ticket requests as part of a lottery to watch the debate live and all have been accommodated. Special Assistant to the President and Chief Planning Officer Patrick Noltemeyer is pleased with what he said is a “terrific” amount of interest, combined with the nearly 125 tickets provided to faculty and staff. In all, the majority of the 1,000 debate tickets will be committed to the students and Centre community, while the remaining tickets will accommodate 225 members of the public, in addition to reserved seating for the campaigns, media and co-host AARP.
“Hosting events like this gubernatorial debate and the two vice presidential debates help create important educational opportunities for our students,” Noltemeyer said. “Giving them the opportunity to engage in the democratic process in this way on our campus serves to fulfill our mission of developing the next generation of citizen-leaders.”
Students who are unable to watch the debate from Newlin Hall can watch a live stream of the debate on the College’s website as well as a large viewing screen in Cowan at the Campus Center.
Kendrick Durham, director of campus activities, said that an integral part of Centre’s mission is to help students recognize the importance of being an engaged citizen and that he hopes these moments will help them in the future.
“We are fortunate to have active students representing the political spectrum,” he said, “and we try to provide the means and resources through which they can become engaged on campus in civil dialogue surrounding important issues and where they can work toward solutions to big problems.
“The goal is that they would take what they have practiced here and use those skills to become an active citizen in their own community,” Durham continued.
Members of the community can get involved as well by submitting questions for the candidates. To add your question to the media pool, tweet @CentreC or post on Facebook using the tag #CentreGovDebate.
Pictured: Centre Democrat and Centre Republican student leaders join Centre President John A. Roush for a coin toss to determine the order for Tuesday’s gubernatorial debate. The coin landed in favor of Mr. Bevin, who will be the first to address Commonwealth voters.
by Elise L. Murrell
October 1, 2015