HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — The Hofstra University campus on Long Island was abuzz with excitement late Monday afternoon, as students awaited the first face-to-face showdown between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
This is the third consecutive presidential election cycle that Hofstra is playing host. It stepped in this summer after Wright State University, in Ohio, backed out.
Hofstra President Stuart Rabinowitz said the university did not have much time to prepare. He said the school has given out 5,000 media credentials from all over the world.
“Our staff here have spent the last two months, day and night, preparing,” he told 1010 WINS’ Glenn Schuck. “Usually, you have a year’s notice that you are going to host a debate — we had two months’ notice. But we’re ready. If the candidates are ready, we’re ready.”
And so are the students at Hofstra.
“Wow, we’re hosting a debate,” one student told CBS2’s Magdalena Doris. “It’s fantastic. It’s great to be a part of this.”
Hofstra cheerleader Danielle Carintieri was up before dawn to show her school spirit.
“It’s awesome,” she told WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond. “I mean, it’s history in the making and I’m so happy I can be part of it.”
Some students talked with CBS2’s Lou Young about the subjects they hoped would come up.
“I want to see them be upfront about the issues and not skirt around it,” one student said.
The students now on campus were children when we last changed presidents. Like all voters, they said they would be listening for issues Monday night.
“Jobs, unemployment,” said Hofstra junior Lena Milazzo.
“I want to see more like fair policies for people who aren’t like the 1 percent, you know?” said Hofstra freshman Jillian Lamanna.
“Mostly for me is the taxes – I know something like the death tax,” said Hofstra freshman Brennan Williams.
“Racial injustice — clearly that’s the issue on the streets,” said Hofstra sophomore Sarah Puckett.
“I’m really interested in their health care– like what they want to do at the health care forum?” said Hofstra medical student Christine Borhcers, who said she has not yet decided whom to support.
Many have already chosen a candidate and are looking for reassurance in the debate performance.
“I think Clinton could definitely make me more confident in her,” said Hofstra junior Wesley Reed.
Graduate student Mike Rooney, who was seen wearing a Trump shirt, said he wants Trump to be “less combative, you know, talk out his stances.”
For a few, age is an issue.
“That’s a big issue with us. They are so old. That’s why President Obama — that’s why he was very popular,” said Hofstra junior Spencer Ohlbaum. “They are both almost 70 years old; that’s my grandparents’ age.”
For others, age is not an issue.
“Whenever I think of a president, I think of them as being old, to be honest,” said Hofstra senior Jennifer Miller.
“Age is not the problem with their archaic beliefs,” said Puckett.
Like much of America, many of the young voters at Hofstra said they have made up their minds, but cannot stop watching the battle.
Layla Paine said she would be watching the debate “because it’s exciting.”
“I want to be entertained, almost to see these two go at it, polar opposites,” said sophomore Andrew Gagnon. “You can’t really go wrong.”
Charles Kim is on the debate team at Hofstra and says the winner will have to stay on task.
“What separates phenomenal political candidates from others is to deprecate themselves from things like personal attacks and to make sure they still stay on message and be cool and calm even under the heat of fire,” he said.
And as CBS2’s Dick Brennan reported, students who scored tickets to the debate were especially excited.
“I went home for the weekend, so I was like, I’m not going to win a ticket; I never win anything. And then I got the email, and I said: ‘Mom! I’ve got to go back to school,’” said Hofstra junior Zion Hall. “She’s like, ‘Oh my God, you have to go! You must go!’ And of course I’m going. It’s so exciting.”
“I mean, my parents are like, ‘You just won the real lotto.’ We’re going to witness history tonight,’” said senior Danielle Ciafalo.
Norman Gabriel had been an alternate, until Monday.
“I just found out I got a ticket,” he said, adding that he was “too excited.”
Political science professor Richard Himelfarb said hosting the debate is also good for the university’s brand.
“And we expect to see thousands of new applicants or extra applicants beyond the ones we typical get because of this debate,” he said.
About 500 Hofstra students are working as volunteers at the event. Some will be helping in the media center while others are handing out credentials, shuttling VIPs, serving as network production assistants or working as debate hall ushers.
Only a few hundred tickets for the debate were available for students and about 7,500 students, or more than two-thirds of the student body, entered a lottery for those tickets.
Hofstra has also welcomed pundits, politicians, authors and others to speak with students about the election.
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