Political events on campus spark community discussion

Tandra Smith

The Georgia Southern University community has been very politically active this year, from individuals helping out with voter registration drives, to hosting a series of forums in order to help inform GS students.

These various events helped many first-time voters come to a decision about their political views and values.

Third Party Forum

In October, an honors First Year Experience (FYE) class helped cultivate a Third Party Forum, an event aimed at educating attendees about third party platforms and their issues.

Christopher Caplinger, director for FYE and professor for the honors class, Modern Political Debate, says that the forum rose out of an engagement assignment required by all honors students.

“What I asked students to do is to think about ways they could promote voter engagement so a lot of that was work and helping to register students,” Caplinger said. “The specific topic of third parties was decided on by the students.”

Caplinger worked with the students in his class to help them find faculty and staff on campus that would be well suited for speaking at a third party forum.

“I played a little bit of a role to suggest and to make some recommendations about format and some other things but for the most part they were the ones who carried [the forum] out,” Caplinger said.

Political science professors Joshua Kennedy, Patrick Novotny and William Biebuyck, along with writing and linguistics professor Jared Sexton and history professor James Woods ended up being the five individuals chosen to speak.

Each of them had eight to 10 minutes to speak, before answering questions sorted and vetted by other students.

According to Caplinger, around 250 people attended the event.

“I was very pleased with the product. I think they did a good job. We relied on faculty experts. I think the students really learned a lot,” Caplinger said.

Caplinger believes it will be interesting to see what happens over the next few years regarding third parties.

“I would like to think that Georgia Southern would continue to offer opportunities for students to engage with and learn from experts in the field,” Caplinger said.


Both the Department of Communication Arts and the Society of Communication Scholars (SOCS) hosted a series of debate watch events in Sanford Hall leading up to Election Day.

While the second DebateWatch event was canceled due to Hurricane Matthew, the first DebateWatch had the largest turnout, according to Shana Bridges, lecturer in communication arts and faculty advisor for SOCS.

The discussion was led by Patrick Wheaton, who gave both orientational information before the debate and helped moderate a mostly neutral discussion afterwards.

Bridges believes the students were definitely interested during the DebateWatch events.

“I think [the events] helped get a better sense of what the two candidates were like. I think it clarified some things for some people,” Bridges said.

Bridges was especially interested in watching the students watching the debates.

“People seemed to be glued to the TV to see what was going to come next,” Bridges said.

DebateWatch events were held during the 2012 Presidential elections as well. For the 2020 Presidential election, Bridges would like to continue to see much of what she observed during the debate watches this year.

“[The event] seemed to work fine the way it was and I think it was a good way for students to come together in this political act of gathering information about candidates,” Bridges said.

There were many other election events, rallies and drives that occurred on Georgia Southern’s campus, helping bring awareness to the importance of voting and making your voice heard.

Now that all of the votes have been casted and America has made its choice for its next president, it’s likely that in 2020, Georgia Southern will continue to be politically active and continue to get young people registered and interested in politics.