I, as were many other student journalists, was incredibly excited for the presidential debates to begin this Fall. Hillary and Trump, set to debate just a few miles down the road at Wright State, one of our top partners in education in Dayton.
Perhaps I was too green at the opportunity, for all the months and changes Wright State poured money into—they made the same mistake again. They bit off more than they could chew.
Originally, the debate bid was expected to be around 2 to 5 million. Wright State did all these exciting revisions, offering new courses and hiring new private contractors to ensure the debate could happen.
The community donated, a $220,000 security grant was awarded and there’s still little to no sign of that money being returned to the sponsors and donors. What a waste, Wright State. If you’re going to bid, you best have thought this through. But, complications happen and I believe they’re doing their best in the interest of the community and their students.
I applaud the effort—what little there was that happened to be in the semblance of an organized one, that is. Wright State was the only Ohio school to bid for the Presidential Debate.
We may recall the scene of Cleveland not long ago as it hosted the Republican National Convention. Ohio is a swing state, we’re more important than we may think of ourselves, like it or hate it. Although Cleveland gets Ohio on the map a bit, it leaves southern Ohio completely out of the picture.
The emphasis that the C-Span special would have placed on Dayton specifically, which was a thirty-minute program to be aired before the debate, cannot be understated. What tremendous potential. But it’s not the end of the world by any means.
I’m not alone in feeling that Dayton has gone in and out for so many years of being just on the cusp of greatness on a global stage. There’s a lot about Dayton that’s ‘almost’ where we would love it more. If our universities and our local communities could manage their assets responsibly and productively, Dayton could reach its full potential. If we contribute wholeheartedly into supporting universities that want to take on these challenges, we could see even better results in our community.
Instead, we so often fall short and enjoy our trip. Wright State got our communities hopes up, which is admirable. Unfortunately, they were shortsighted.
I’ll defend Wright State in some aspects out of fairness, since the point of my pieces isn’t ever found in the antagonizing or patronizing portions. Many people were entirely confused that Wright State dropped their bid in July of this year. “Why isn’t the party paying for the debate?” is one popular question. I’ve reminded many people, that the parties do not pay for the campaigns, nor the debates.
Today, I feel we expect our candidates to debate in the most luxurious of stages with a live audience and with celebrity moderators. This was not always the case, but it is the standard that we hold ourselves to today. These events do not have to be expensive, but we have such an intermingling of money and politics that it’s a profitable institution to make a debate a commercial product.
Wright State’s President, David R. Hopkins said that the rising violence in the wake of the recent controversial shootings and the massacring of five police officers in Dallas, Texas, affected their decision to nix their bid. It was a combination of fear for security and the increasing cost of securing a public university for the debate.
Wright State’s position as a public university does mean that by law they cannot restrict access to their campus. This makes the flow of people, in Hopkins’s words, “daunting.”
Here we have a pretty bad case of optics. It comes off as incredibly poor planning to have the public see such a massive failing after a large investment, and to have an unsure future of any reimbursement from their failing. We expect more from our public institutions. I believe they will deliver, these situations are very burdensome for everyone and I am so very sympathetic to that.
Not only that, but by cancelling the debate over “daunting” security concerns, despite the security grant and the secret service’s presence, sounds an awful lot like they wanted to avoid all activity surrounding the debate—not just those that posed some physical, tangible and immediate threat of bodily harm.
This is just how it can appear, I am by no means insinuating or accusing Wright State. Without a doubt, I am a supporter of Wright State in large, which is why I had to get my feelings out about this situation.
By passing on the debate and citing both poor financial planning and a security issue, Wright State comes off as looking like they simply don’t want to deal with Dayton responding.
When you don’t want to deal with a response, you don’t want to deal with the intent. When you don’t want to deal with intent, you dismiss the very city that affords your lifestyle—which is a rather luxurious and tenured one.
When you say “we don’t want it” with your actions, you’re meaning you don’t want Dayton to be involved. You want complacency. Poor optics makes for poor results. If people show up and protest Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, that would be a security hassle for sure, but it is also certainly within the rights of our citizens to express their speech. I’m certainly not denouncing someone who I believe made the call that came from the most genuine part of their heart, and I respect his decision despite my disappointment.
This kind of shady optics also contributes to this idea of division. So, where do we go from here? Honestly, I’m wishing Wright State well. If I sound too harsh, forgive me a little bit. I really do want only positive things for Wright State’s future, but I am not alone in my disappointment. I hope we as a community can do better and remain involved, while encouraging the greatness found in our potential and by our dedication found on every level of Dayton.
Was this a wrong choice from Wright State? I’m not too sure, but I am left with just that lingering disappointment. In life however, I think it’s important to do something with those lingering feelings we have, and the entire ordeal just serves as a reminder to support our institutions and our communities, even when they get political. Thank you for your efforts, Wright State and especially to the donors.