LMU Hosts Presidential Debate Discussion

Members of the LMU community participated in a program that featured the public viewing of the three 2012 presidential debates –Oct. 3, 16 and 22. Each viewing of presidential debates was followed with discussion in three shifting formats. The discussions, organized by the Department of Communication Studies, focused on analysis of the oral communication, argumentation and public speaking styles of President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney.

“This was a great opportunity for students to get involved and to examine political information for accuracy and comprehensive coverage,” said Wenshu Lee, professor and chair of the Department of Communication Studies, and one of the organizers of the event.

On Oct. 3, the nearly full Ahmanson Auditorium audience viewed the debate and then heard a panel of eight faculty members from various disciplines discuss the event. Each panelist spoke for two minutes on topics including climate change, race, class, gender, sexuality and presidential rhetoric. The post-debate discussion focused less on who won the debate; instead, the substance of what the candidates spoke about and the principles of argument theory, style, audience, and message were analyzed.

“This paradigm greatly benefits students as they garner insight on how to critically decipher the messages of each presidential candidate,” said Nina Reich, associate professor of communication studies and a panel speaker. “This knowledge, then, in understanding how to become critical consumers of discourse, is a lifelong approach to political civic engagement.”

The panel also took questions from the audience, which covered several political topics not included in the debate, such as immigration, same-sex marriage and reproductive rights. After the event formally ended, more than 20 students gathered in small groups to further discuss the candidates and the issues.

After the viewing of the debate on Oct. 16 in Seaver 200, student representatives from the university’s Democratic and Republican clubs delivered a response. Student panelists then joined the panel discussion alongside faculty members and a facilitator, who engaged the audience in an open forum dialogue. The discussion focused on several topics including the rhetorical framing of female voters and an analysis of Twitter conversations about the debates.

The final debate discussion will be held Monday, Oct. 22. It will include the components that worked successfully during the second event. The organizers hope to include more student participation and open-forum discussion.

The series was sponsored by many departments and groups across campus including: African American Studies, African American Faculty and Staff Alliance, American Cultures, Art History, Asian Pacific American Studies, Asian Pacific Islander Faculty & Staff Association, Chicana/o Studies, Center for Undergraduate Teacher Preparations & Liberal Studies , Communication Studies, Faculty and Staff Gay/Straight Network, Latino Faculty Association, Latino Staff Association and Women’s Studies.

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