By Noah Fortson
For The Diamondback
More than 300 University of Maryland students packed into Hoff Theater at Stamp Student Union to watch the first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
Hosted by multiple campus groups including the UMD College Republicans and UMD College Democrats, the students watched as NBC’s Lester Holt moderated the hour-and-a-half long debate at Hofstra University in New York.
“It’s important that we get people together, actually talk about the ideas and not just who we like and dislike and try to sort out some sort of consensus,” said junior Jacob Veitch, the chairman of the UMD College Republicans. There are “varying degrees of success obviously, but the first step is getting in the same room.”
Students also had the chance to register to vote and to sign up for political clubs at several booths within the room. A total of 26 students registered to vote at the event, which organizers considered a success.
Most supporters of Clinton, the Democratic nominee, congregated on the left of the room, while many of those who cheered for Republican candidate Trump huddled on the right. And there were a few signature ‘Make America Great Again’ baseball caps speckled throughout the theater.
Clinton supporters roared when the Democratic nominee mentioned the importance of equal pay for women, while Trump supporters cheered when he mentioned tax cuts.
“I’m very happy that [equal pay] is something that she’s so passionate about,” said freshman government and politics major Meredith Riley, who supports Clinton. “I hoped that equal pay would be something that she would bring up and I’m very glad that she did.”
When Trump used the word “bigly” to describe the way Clinton’s tax plan would increase the federal deficit, chuckles echoed throughout the theater.
One of the largest applauses of the night came when Clinton brought up making college debt-free.
“Other nations that have debt-free college generally have higher rated education systems,” said freshman government and politics major Lucas Intrater, who is a Democrat. “On top of that, I feel as though [Clinton’s plan] would do a lot to lessen the gap between the rich and the poor.”
The candidates traded punches in familiar fights.Trump continued his attack on Clinton’s use of a private email server.
“That was more than a mistake. That was done purposely. OK?” Trump said. “When you have your staff taking the Fifth Amendment, taking the Fifth so they’re not prosecuted, when you have the man that set up the illegal server taking the Fifth, I think it’s disgraceful.”
And Clinton pressured Trump to release his tax returns.
“For 40 years, everyone running for president has released their tax returns,” Clinton said. “We know the IRS has made clear there is no prohibition on releasing it when you’re under audit. So you’ve got to ask yourself, why won’t he release his tax returns?”
The debate also dove into race relations, and Trump endorsed the controversial use of stop-and-frisk. Holt also brought up Trump’s involvement in birther movement, which perpetuated the idea that President Barack Obama was not a natural-born citizen.
Trump said Clinton doesn’t have the stamina required of a president, and Clinton responded by rattling off her experiences as Secretary of State.
The candidates entered Monday night’s debate in a virtual tie, according to a Washington Post-ABC News Poll. After it was over, students had mixed views about who would surge ahead.
“Trump won the debate,” said freshman Chad Karper, an architecture major and an undecided voter. “Trump focused a little more on Hillary than she did on him. He was the more aggressive one.”
Freshman Maggie Flaherty thought it was Clinton who came out victorious.
“Hillary definitely won,” said the Clinton supporter enrolled in letters in sciences. “Donald Trump … avoided what Lester was asking him. I definitely think Hillary was more composed.”
Maryland Discourse, MaryPIRG, the Society of Professional Journalists, Students for Liberty and Young Americans for Liberty also hosted the debate watch party.
The groups scheduled two more joint debate watches for Oct. 4 and Oct. 19.
‘ “If you’re not getting involved then the elected officials aren’t going to reflect your opinion, and really that’s why a lot of young people feel disenfranchised by the political process,” said Veitch, an international business and government and politics major. “Rightfully so, but the only way to change that is for everyone to collectively get involved.”