Shut out of GOP debate, CU students find their own way to get on TV

In case you haven’t heard, it’s tough to get into the Republican primary debate hosted at the University of Colorado in Boulder this evening. Of the 11,000 seats in CU’s Coors Events Center, only 1,000 will have butts in them. And of those 1,000, only 150 will be students’.

“It does kind of feel personal,” third year student Tim Werder said.

When Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders visited campus earlier this month, students made up a good chunk of the 9,000 in attendance.

Werder isn’t sure yet who he’ll support this election, but appreciated Sanders’s willingness to engage with students. “At least he actually talked to us.”

Werder is part of the group “Student Voices Count” that formed to pressure their school into securing more seats. They succeeded in winning 50 more — bringing the total to 150 — but still see that as far from enough. But rather than sit around lamenting the situation, the group partnered with BeHeard to broadcast a panel discussion about the debate, the election and politics in general. BeHeard is a millennial run, nonpartisan, nonprofit news network that will stream the discussion live.

Students will go on first, then the professional politicos. In order of appearance, you can expect to see Chairman of the College Republican National Committee Alex Smith, Christina Tobin of Free & Equal Elections Foundation, Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley, Morgan Young of the Boulder County Democrats, former Vice Chair of the Boulder County Republicans Scott Schaefer, Students For Liberty president Alexander McCobin, Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein and U.S. Rep. Jared Polis.

Michael McGrady is a political science major at University of Colorado in Colorado Springs who comes up to Boulder all the time. A conservative himself, he’s quick to point out that despite CU Boulder’s liberal reputation, the Student Voices Count group represents a wide swath of the political spectrum.

“Young conservatives are all about bipartisanship and working with everyone. Older conservatives need to get on our level.”

McGrady is frustrated that the political class seems to recognize young voters can help them get elected, but fails to actually reach out to them effectively.

“We are the next generation of voters, and we are watching, and we are engaged.”

Across the street from a lot of the debate-related hullabaloo, students Tom Roberts and Amanda Swain sat eating lunch outside the student center.

Roberts doesn’t feel like CU students are as pissed as they’re being made out to be. “The majority of people don’t care, but the ones who do are very vocal.”

Swain is interested in watching the debate — she wants to get exposed to viewpoints different from her hippie mom’s — but doesn’t think she will. She has homework tonight.

Photo by Nat Stein.