USF Preps for Presidential Debate, Watch Party

The community is invited Monday to the University of South Florida, the location of a Republican Presidential Candidates Debate and watch party.


The  is hosting a on Monday at 9 p.m. in partnership with NBC News, the Tampa Bay TimesNational Journal, and the Florida Council of 100.

Public tickets to the live debate are unavailable, so while it’s taking place in Theatre I, USF’s Student Government will be hosting a watch party on the western end of the Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza lawn, close to the theater. The party is free and open to students and the public.

The debate will be broadcast live on a large projection screen inside an enclosed 1,000-person tent, according to a USF press release. Captioning will be provided. North campus parking areas (north of USF Holly Drive) will be open to the public after 5 p.m. for free parking. The party starts at 7:30 p.m., and refreshments will be provided beginning at 8:30 p.m.

The prominence of the event plus the increase in the amount of people on campus will equal heighted security at USF. The  will supplement University Police (UP).

“Temple Terrace Police will assist with any large event like they have in the past,” said Temple Terrace Police Deputy Chief Bernard Seeley. The department has helped with traffic posts and other security for USF’s major concerts and graduations in recent years.

UP is also preparing for protesters on campus, according to Lt. Chris Daniel, public information officer for UP. The political activities are likely to draw those who want to be heard, he said.

“The university, in concert with the university police, have planned for this potential and are prepared to address, on a case-by-case basis those incidents in which the right of free speech is exercised without responsibility,” he said.

Protesters won’t be assigned to certain areas, Daniel said, rather police will make sure they keep away from areas where they aren’t supposed to be.

“USF, as a public institution, is familiar with and supportive of responsible free-speech endeavors,” he said. “As a result, we work to balance the right of free speech with the common and customary use of university facilities. Individuals and/or groups, seeking to convey their beliefs at USF can do so provided it does not become disruptive to the educational process, jeopardize university interests, or otherwise create a hazard.”

According to a story that appeared Thursday in The Oracle, USF’s student-run newspaper, there will be at least two groups protesting on campus. The story, “USF heightens security for debate” by Maryam Saleh, states that Fight Back Florida and the USF chapter of Students for a Democratic Society plan to peacefully protest near Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza.

Monday’s debate is taking place eight days before the Presidential Preference Primary election Jan. 31.  has already begun.




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