Election Event Explores U.S. Presidential Landscape
On Oct. 21 – two weeks before the U.S. Presidential Election – SUNY Oswego hosted a virtual panel discussion, “The 2020 Election: Protests, Pandemics and the Presidential Race.” Watch a recording of the event.
Lauren Fitzgerald ’21, a student leader involved with Vote Oswego, welcomed the 90 attendees and laid out the ground rules for the evening’s discussion.
“We always aspire to achieve the highest level of civil discourse to foster a sense of understanding, not necessarily agreement, and to build comprehension through the exchange of ideas,” Lauren said. “We appreciate everyone joining us in this important effort.”
Event co-hosts and members of the Oswego College Foundation Board of Directors Mark Baum ’81, senior vice president and CCO for FMI — the Food Industry Association, and Colonel Jack James ’62, U.S. Marine Corps (Retired), echoed those sentiments in their welcome remarks.
“This year is a little different because we’re holding the event over Zoom, which is great because it allows us to go beyond the national capitol area … and allows alums from all over the country to participate,” Mark said. “I can’t think of a more timely or more topical set of issues to discuss.”
Jack, framed by two life-sized cardboard cut-outs of the two U.S. Presidential candidates, explained that this was the fourth time he and Mark had hosted the Presidential Election Event, which is usually held in D.C. He then introduced SUNY Oswego President Deborah F. Stanley who provided a college update, including the campus response to the COVID-19 pandemic; the impact on campus life, financials and enrollment; the numerous national college rankings; and campus construction projects.
“It will be very important to us who the next president is,” she said. “Our campus will look one way or another way, dependent upon that decision.”
Professor Emeritus Dr. Bruce Altschuler moderated the discussion, which featured the following panelists:
- Benedicte Harris Doran ’91, chair of the Onondaga County Republican Committee, who shared her perspective as a campaign organizer and party chair;
- Dr. Thomas Schaller ’89, professor of political science at University of Maryland, Baltimore County, who provided historical context about presidential elections and polling;
- Dr. Yvonne Spicer ’84 M’85, Democratic Mayor of Framingham, Mass., who shared her political views as a sitting elected official and the impact the election will have on her community;
- Kevin Torres ’06, journalist and reporter for the FOX and CW affiliates (KDVR-TV & KWGN-TV) in Denver, Colo., who talked about covering the elections in an age when both parties claim the opposition is generating “fake news.”
Bruce asked a series of questions that included such topics as political strategies of both parties, responding to misinformation, what voters need to make informed decisions and where they can find that information, the topics that are being neglected by candidates and the media, social media’s impact on the campaigns and how COVID-19 is changing the campaigning process.
Participants also submitted questions for the panelists to respond to that addressed unique challenges for specific candidates, the Electoral College versus popular vote, how the media decides what it covers, what panelists would advise each candidate to focus on in their last two weeks of campaigning, and whether this election cycle has caused permanent changes to how people vote, among others.
The final question about first-time voters and getting people out to vote brought the event full circle, with student Lauren chiming in.
“Turn-out rates for college students nationwide is pretty abysmal,” she said. “But I think we’ve seen in recent years that younger people are getting involved. We saw a 300-percent increase in student involvement on the SUNY Oswego campus and showing up for the polls and that’s because of things like Vote Oswego and other organizations that are trying to educate Gen Z and Millennials on the voting process. Our goal is to get students to do the most basic civic duty as an American.”
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