It was an odd circumstance that I was among the first Hofstra faculty to hear the university would be hosting another presidential debate. Melissa Connolly, Hofstra’s vice president of university relations, had joined our group in Rome as part of her department’s efforts to promote our study abroad programs, when she got a phone call just after we toured the Coliseum. Soon after we jumped into a cab she was able to reveal why she was rushing back to Long Island. Wright State University had backed out of its commitment to host the September 26 debate and Hofstra, which had agreed to serve as an alternate, was in. While it meant an abrupt end of Melissa’s trip, it means a bumper crop of public relations opportunities.
It’s estimated the cost of hosting the debate will be approximately $5 million. It was reported yesterday that three of Hofstra’s alumni–David Mack, Peter Kalikow and Lawrence Herbert–will donate most of the funds. The university’s expenses include everything from providing work stations for a thousand journalists, to staging and technical assistance to dozens of television stations, to beefed-up traffic control and security (in addition to the Secret Service presence), et cetera, et cetera.
There will be disruptions to the campus, including road closings and class cancellations the day of the event. There are certain to be protests on and off campus, as controversies surrounding this election’s candidates are incentives for demonstrations. There will be restrictions of movement as parts of the campus will become inaccessible without security clearance.
Is it all worth it? The publicity for Hofstra will be priceless. The sheer number of mentions of Hofstra’s name throughout the world for the next two months will be worth millions. “Hofstra,” an unusual and memorable name to begin with, will be on every journalist’s lips and keyboards, and first-time public awareness of the university will be immeasurable. If previous debates are an indicator, as the prestige of the university increases applications to Hofstra will, too.
I don’t believe there’s any debate about the value of hosting this event. Your thoughts?