Judson students watch, weigh debate
By Emily McFarlan-Miller email@example.com October 16, 2012 9:40PM
Students catch the second presidential debate Tuesday night at Judson University in Elgin. 10/16/12. | Emily Miller-McFarlan~Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 18, 2012 6:42AM
ELGIN — It was a question “that has been asked by college students around the country,” said GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney.
It was the first question, asked by 20-year-old college student and first-time voter Jeremy Epstein, at the town hall-style presidential debate held Tuesday at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y.: “What can you say to reassure me, but more importantly my parents, that I will be able to sufficiently support myself after I graduate?”
And it was a good question, students watching the debate at Judson University murmured in agreement.
About 40 students gathered around a big-screen TV and snacks from Chick-Fil-A to watch the debate in the Browne Underground, the basement of the University Center at Judson.
The campus is no stranger to presidential hopefuls making the case for their election. Romney’s foe in the Republican primaries, Newt Gingrich, had spoken at a Hispanic Town Hall in March to a capacity crowd at Judson’s Herrick Chapel.
But most of the students who turned out Tuesday night, many of whom will be voting for the first time in this election, said they still are deciding which candidate they will choose.
“To be honest, I’m not politically knowledgeable,” said junior Julianna Akuchie, 20, of Ohio.
“I’m actually looking forward to the debate so I can learn what the candidates believe, what they’re saying and everything, how they interact with each other, how they speak.”
And, sophomore Lexy Raines, 20, of Downers Grove said, “We’re representative of part of the population that it’s vital for us to get involved and vote.”
Akuchie and Raines organized the debate-watching event at Judson. Akuchie is the activities coordinator for Brothers And Sisters In Christ, or BASIC, the university’s diversity club, and Raines is its Academic Life chair.
Education is an issue that’s important to Raines, an education major, she said. Other students at the evangelical Christian school named foreign policy, especially the U.S. relationship with Israel; sustainable energy; and abortion as issues important to them.
Many, like junior Carey Bienert, 20, of Crystal Lake, referred to the choice between Romney and President Barack Obama as between “the lesser of two evils.”
Bienert was impressed by Romney’s performance in the first debate. His parents are Republican, he said, and “I definitely respect what they have to say.”
“But I wouldn’t say that’s a deciding factor,” he said.
As for as what they’d say to reassure students at Judson and elsewhere they’ll be able to support themselves after they graduate, Obama said he wants to change the tax code, make sure we have the best education system in the world, and control energy. Romney expressed support for PELL grants and said, “More debt and less jobs — I’m going to change that. I know what it takes to create good jobs again.”
Students planned to discuss the debate after press time Tuesday with several professors, including Dave Sanders, assistant professor in the department of Youth Ministry/Adolescent Studies and Applied Christian Ministries; Craig Kaplowitz, professor of history; and Keith Jenkins, associate professor of Information Technology Systems.