Over the weekend the Democratic National Debate was held on Drake University’s campus. Sheslow auditorium was transformed into an almost unrecognizable room where sat amongst the masses were journalists from world-renowned publications, politicians from around the country, and 60 Drake students.
Maggie Rufe, a student at Drake University, posted on the “Drake University Student Senate: Student Services” Facebook page Saturday evening following the dabate voicing her concerns about ticket distribution.
“Some fellow students and I are concerned about how student selection for debate attendance as well as invitations to exclusive events… worked,” Rufe said. “It seems that it may not have been as ‘random’ as advertised and many, myself included, are worried about the lack of opportunity for all students.”
The original Facebook post garnered attention gaining 131 likes and starting a thread of comments from senate members, fellow students, and professors. The comments addressed issues that arose about the tickets, or lack thereof, for the Democratic Debate, as well as an issue that occurred with a special event on campus.
Caitlin Jenner hosted a watch party with her friends on Drake’s campus and invited were about 50 Drake students. There was not a formal announcement about this event and it was not well known that it was occurring until Saturday night.
“I was with a group of people at the time when we found out [about the Caitlin Jenner event]… One of the reasons why I posted is because I had no idea how people got in,” Rufe said. “That is when we started realizing all the inconsistencies.”
Rachel Paine Caulfield, a professor at Drake University, explained that the ticketing process for the Democratic Debate and the Caitlin Jenner event were very different. Interested students were asked to fill out a Qualtrics survey with their information. The survey garnered 1200 responses, which broke down into 85 percent students and 15 percent faculty. A random number generator was then used to choose 60 people to receive tickets and a list of alternates was also created.
“We developed a system that was fair to everyone,” Caulfield said.
The Caitlin Jenner event was hosted by the E! Network, as the event was filmed and is to be used on the reality show starring Caitlin Jenner ‘I Am Cait’. Due to this event not being hosted by Drake the university was not able to control how many tickets were handed out and to whom they were given. E! Network did reach out to members of the Drake community such as senate members in order to find people to use for filming. While the initial segment of the event was closed only to students who had signed nondisclosure statements and releases to be on the show, the second half of the event was not filmed and therefore was open to the public.
Olive Wassen, the President of campus organization, One Voice, attended the watch party that Caitlin Jenner was present at.
“As the night went on more students were showing up,” Wassen said. “People were just running over to see if they could get in.”
Olivia O’Hea, the Campus Advancement Senator for Student Senate was one of the many senators who posted on the Facebook thread.
“I understand not everyone is upset they couldn’t get a debate ticket or go to the Jenner event, but that’s not an indication that there is some vast conspiracy Drake/Student Senate is not letting you in on.” O’Hea said in a Facebook comment.
Although the Debate and the filming of “I Am Cait” have created some controversy over the weekend Student Senate, as well as various other campus organizations worked to put on other events for students. There was the Yahoo Digital Democracy Debate Nov. 11, Politics and Pancakes the morning of Nov. 14 and many more.
“It’s disappointing not to get tickets,” O’Hea said. “But we [Student Senate] worked really hard to make sure everyone got the Drake experience.”