By Jesse Bade (Staff Writer)
Millions of dollars were spent to host the presidential debates in 2008 and 2012. Twenty people spent a year planning the debates, including Melissa Connolly, Vice President of University Relations. Hundreds of other members of the Hofstra community prepared the campus in the months leading up to the debates.
“They were both around $4 million [to host a debate]. Maybe 2008 was five percent less. But there wasn’t a lot of savings, you know, from one to the other,” Connolly said .
This price does not even cover the amount it takes to set up signs and promotions around campus. Connolly discussed the amount of work that goes into the debate at an event on Wednesday called “Marketing for the Hofstra Debate.” This event was hosted by HAMA (Hofstra American Marketing Association) as a part of the Marketing Week series of events.
Rachelle Pierre, public relations major, was surprised to find out how much it costs to host a debate.
“I had no clue it was worth so much money. It makes sense in the long run, but I don’t know, you can buy a lot of things with $4 million,” said Pierre. “I am glad it is donated money and not money that the students are paying or from the Hofstra funds, but even so I still don’t understand how these donors are raising $4 million.”
Originally, Connolly stated that she was skeptical about Hofstra’s chance at getting chosen for the debate. However, the campus’ location makes the school ideal for news networks. Having New York City so close to campus allows networks to send reporters without having to pay hotel costs and other expenses.
Despite this, there were some differences between the 2008 debate and the 2012 debate.
“The amount of dialogue about individual questions and performance issues and the candidates and the university and the news media even had risen, you know, tenfold,” Connolly said.
Social media played a large role in 2012. It put pressure on Hofstra to make sure everything went smoothly. Otherwise, mistakes would go worldwide in minutes. According to Connolly, the pressure and expenses are well worth it.
“We want to raise awareness about the University, one. We also want to show the University as a place where we have programs like this,” Connolly said.
Journalists, political scientists and professionals from all over came to Hofstra for the debates. Connolly stated that internationally, it made people and future students look at the university as a prestigious institution.
“We want to get as many opinion leaders here. So, when you get Brian Williams to campus and you get Hilary Clinton to campus and you get all those people that you see in the spin room to campus and they have a high opinion of the university, it makes conversations later that you need to have about the university or higher-education easier because they are familiar with you already,” Connolly said.
From a marketing standpoint, Connolly believed that story retrieval from the students and professors at Hofstra were an important aspect of the debates. Connolly added that the main goal of the university was to make this a once in a lifetime experience for students.
Diana DiaCocco from HAMA was pleased that she learned about how much work went in to host the debate.
“I thought it was great and I loved what she had to say. And I feel like it definitely took you more into behind the scenes of the debate,” said HAMA member Diana DiaCocco, after the event.
As for the future, Connolly stated that the president of Hofstra wants to look into bringing the debate back to Hofstra in 2016. However, no decisions have been made yet.
“It’s been a great experience both times we did it so we have to consider it,” Connolly said.