Earlier this week, GW hosted the Commission on Presidential Debates Symposium. For two days, a variety of political experts gathered to discuss last year’s presidential debates. They evaluated strengths and weaknesses of the debates, the media’s role in the debates and politics in general. It was an event the University hoped would showcase GW, perhaps boosting the University’s status as contender to actually host future presidential debates, or at least highly-touted political shows. It was a good plan, but it didn’t work out exactly as hoped. A major component was missing – students.
The symposium was held during a time when most students were busy cramming for midterms. It was also mostly during the day, when most students either were in class, or soon to be in class. Simply put, the timing was bad for students.
However, the idea behind it was good. The exposure the symposium generated for GW is something many other schools envy. GW definitely is seeking more national political attention. The University continues to try to draw a presidential debate to campus some year. With GW actively asserting itself into the fore of political discourse – even incorporating CNN specifications for a theater in the planned School of Media and Public Affairs building – one question remains. How can students be jumpstarted from the political apathy chronic among many?
During last year’s presidential elections, a measly 18 percent of youth voted. Does this mean Generation X is truly apathetic, or is there another explanation? GW students must remember that if they fail to come to events like the debate symposium, substantially fewer such events will be scheduled for them to attend.
But on the same note, GW administrators have to keep students’ schedules in mind when they plan such events. A poorly-timed event is not an accurate measure of student interest.