Chapman faculty and students engage in thoughtful dialogue after presidential debate


While the first presidential debate in the 2020 election was controversial, the dialogue was respectful and engaging in a post-debate discussion hosted by Chapman University Civic engagement initiatives and the Department of Political Science.

Participating students and two Chapman academics in presidential politics modeled a civil and reflective discourse during the September 29 discussion.

The purpose of the discussion after the presidential debate was to “give students the opportunity to learn and engage better,” said Tim Topper, program coordinator in Chapman’s Department of Student Engagement. Topper hosted the discussion on Tuesday evening.

“Our students are listening to what’s going on during this election, and they want to ask questions,” Topper noted. “By providing faculty facilitators, we are able to help create an environment in which this conversation can flourish. “

Political science Professors lead students in post-debate discussions

Lori Cox Han, Ph.D.

The discussion at a Zoom meeting followed a presidential debate that students and faculty variously described as “a political theater”, “a run down locomotive” and “a mess”, recounting what they saw of the President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden on stage in Cleveland on September 29.

“My first reaction is that my head hurts,” one student explained at the start of the discussion after the debate. “I don’t know what just happened.”

The two faculty members in the conversation – Chapman political science professors Lori Cox Han and John Compton – expressed similar reactions to the first of four debates ahead of the November 3 elections. Chapman also hosted talks involving students, faculty, and others after the Vice Presidential Debate and the Final Presidential Debate.

“I always say debates are political theater, and it certainly was tonight,” said Han, Ph.D., a presidential scholar and author of several books on the presidency, including In It to Win: Election of Madam President ”and“ Councilor Nixon: The White House Memos from Patrick J. Buchanan. “I think tonight’s debate was Exhibit A explaining why the debates may have lost their usefulness.”

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” added Compton, Ph.D., who has been evaluating the performance of the presidential debate since 1988.

Ignoring the rules over and over and talking about a debate rival are “new developments,” Compton said. “The format just doesn’t work if applicants don’t meet a time limit or allow themselves to talk to each other, so I’m tempted to agree that the format may have been out of date. “

Encourage a respectful and open-minded debate

While convincing arguments on important issues were absent from the first presidential debate, they do occur in Chapman. During the post-debate discussion, topics such as climate change and the expected appointment of Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court were discussed.

Jasmin Sani ’21, editor of The Panther newspaper at Chapman, was disappointed that she hadn’t heard more content from the contestants.

“I feel like it was supposed to help the voters switch,” she said, adding that what was presented only made things more difficult for the electorate.

Such considerations encourage respectful debate throughout this election season, as Chapman’s civic engagement initiatives team connects student voters with the tools and resources they need to participate with confidence.

Connect students with the resources they need to participate

John Compton
John Compton, Ph.D.

The fall semester at Chapman was filled with virtual events and programs leading up to the November election. These online experiences have brought a wide awareness of everything from national issues to state-by-state registration requirements and voting initiatives. Among the resources were Chapman’s CU on the kiosk webpage, as well as informative content on Instagram on the @LifeatCU and @ChapmanCivic accounts as well as virtual deposit sessions and other online material with advice on the postal voting process.

In addition, Chapman was one of some 200 voting centers in Orange County, providing a one-stop-shop for voting, ballots, voter registration and a variety of related services. The university hosted a Orange County Polling Center at Argyros Forum 119 from October 30 to November 3.

Chapman is ALL IN to Achieve 100% Voter Registration on Campus

These efforts to ensure high student voter turnout align with the university’s ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge (ALL IN) commitment, as Chapman commits to 100% student enrollment and voter turnout. election. ALL IN is a national initiative recognizing and supporting campuses in their work to increase non-partisan democratic engagement.

Over the past eight years, there has been a steady trend of an increase in the number of Chapman’s students both registering to vote and submitting their ballots. For the 2016 presidential election, more than 80% of Chapman’s students registered to vote.

Chapman has a long tradition of political and civic engagement. In the last two recognition cycles, the university has been recognized as a “Voter Friendly Campus” by the national non-partisan groups Campus Vote Project (CVP) and NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education. Chapman is one of five higher education institutions in California to receive this designation.



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