By Kelly Yu

Every choice a presidential candidate makes reflects their stance on certain issues: what tie to wear, what chips to eat, which baby to kiss.  But what seemed like one of the lesser choices the candidates had to make was which college campuses to hold the presidential debates.  This year, the three colleges chosen were University of Mississippi in Oxford, Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, and Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, not too far from Stony Brook.  The first thing one would think is, “Yeah cool!  Wait, where are these places?  Belmont, isn’t that a horse racing track or something?”  These universities have their own individual merits, but one must wonder what makes them worthy of hosting some of the most important debates in our lifetime.

Hofstra students expressing their support hours before presidential debate
Hofstra students expressing their support hours before presidential debate

The first stop was down in Oxford, at the University of Mississippi, or as it is affectionately called, “Ole Miss.”  According to the U.S. News and World Report, U. Miss. “is one of the oldest public institutions in the South.”  The school was founded in 1844 and described itself as “the flagship university of the state.”  The university had a total enrollment of 17,323 students for 2008 and charges $4,932 for instate student tuition and $11,436 for out of state student tuition.  With an eighty-four percent acceptance rate, sixty-nine percent of the student body are from Mississippi and nineteen percent are minorities.  While Ole Miss has an amazing football team, everything else screams Christian values by day, Greek party scene by night.  According to the Princeton Review, Ole Miss is ranked the second biggest party school in the nation.  On top of the party scene ranking, the school is ranked number four for the “Students Study the Least” category, number five for “Lots of Hard Liquor,” number eight for “Lots of Beer,” and ironically number six on the “Most Conservative Students” list.  So not only do these kids love God, but they party with closets full of kegs.  Not surprisingly, U. Miss. is not even ranked on the U.S. News and World Report.  It is listed as a Tier 3 school, however that doesn’t keep their students from staying.  According to direct quotes from Ole Miss students on College Prowler, a lot of students love the campus so much that they stay for additional degrees.  “I loved Oxford so much that I stayed!” said one student.  “You’ll find that most students take their time when it comes to graduating, because Oxford has so much to offer.”  What with all the beer and active Greek life, it’s a wonder that any students from U. Miss. graduate at all.  I’m betting the Joe Six Pack at Ole Miss was excited when Vice President Candidate Sarah Palin gave him a shout out.

The second stop for the Town Hall Presidential Debate was Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee.  Never heard of it?  Not surprising as it was only renamed Belmont University in 1991.  According to the university’s website, “Belmont University is a student centered Christian community providing an academically challenging education that empowers men and women of diverse backgrounds to engage and transform the world with disciplined intelligence, compassion, courage and faith.”  The school started as Belmont College, an all girls school that taught from the elementary level to junior college level.  The school eventually became coed and claimed to be “one of the fastest growing Christian universities.”  Today, their total enrollment is 4,991 and a tuition rate of $10,035 for undergrads.  According to a student quoted in the Princeton Review, “The campus looks like an indie band concert.”  The independent minded students on campus do not dilute the huge Christian influence on campus.  According to the U.S. News, this school isn’t even nationally ranked for it’s undergraduate program.  Although, the school has been called “One of the south colleges to look out for.”

The last stop for Obama and McCain is Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York (38 miles from Stony Brook).  Hofstra is a private university on Long Island, founded in 1935.  They have an undergraduate enrollment of 7,718 students and a total of 12,600 students.  The average class size is twenty-two students and has an acceptance rate of 54%.  According to a quote from a Hofstra student on Princeton Review, there are two categories of students, the kind that work hard and study hard and then there are the Long Island kids.  You know, the ones who walk in late with their Marc Jacobs sunglasses and Ugg boots talking about the most awesome party last night.  However, another student was quoted as saying, “Eat me Hofstra!  I’m finally done, and I’m not coming back.  Don’t get me wrong, this is a cool place to party, but I can’t wait to get the hell out.”  While most people don’t know much about Hofstra, one prominent reputation that they hold is having the highest prevalence of STDs on a college campus.  The reputation spread so far that Hofstra students themselves got the idea that a special disease called “Hofstra Red,” a special strain of herpes, only affected Hofstra students.  The myth has been busted and the reputation still stands even though much ickier college student bodies have far surpassed it.

These schools were chosen to host the presidential debates for one of the most pivotal election years of our time.  While the universities do not represent the candidates in any way, the choice of these universities over other more deserving or appropriate schools gave younger voters the motivation to listen and get involved.  Whether it be toasting their solo cups to McCain and Palin or waving their Obama shirts in the air, college students are becoming more aware and getting more involved because of the debates being hosted at college campuses.

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