The American Political Culture class at Howard Payne University’s Newman Honors Academy hosted a watch party for the third presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald J. Trump Wednesday evening.
    From a large room on the third floor of the academy building, students ate pizza and played “Debate Bingo” as the candidates made their final pitch to become President of the United States.
    After the debate, Honors Academy director Dr. Matthew McNiece held a discussion with several attendees about their impressions of the night and how it related to their classroom learning. Overall, the students seemed put off by the tenor of the election in general but optimistic about how it could improve once this campaign ended.
    McNiece asked his students why they should remain politically engaged in an election cycle that suffered from everything from corruption to allegations of voter fraud to historically unpopular candidates.
    Academy student Isaac Sommers said the election had motivated him to get more involved at every level of politics. “If you don’t like one candidate and you think that they might win,” Sommers said, “I think that’s going to motivate people, myself included, to say, ‘Well, I’m going to go out and try to have as much of an impact as I can in the other races’—local elections, state elections, congressional elections. Those can be a way to counter something that I don’t like.”
    Sky Schoolfield said the election had caused many of her peers to look towards alternative options. “I’ve actually seen a lot of participation, on campus and on Facebook, of people leaning towards more third-party candidates,” Schoolfield said, citing Evan McMullin and Gary Johnson. “I think it shows that … there are more options than just the two.”
    Rachel Hughes said the election had engendered a greater political apathy in some of the younger Howard Payne students. “I’ve also seen several students—interestingly, a lot of them are freshmen—that just are kind of in the mindset of, ‘What does it matter? I don’t like anybody,’” she said. “The student government was running a voter registration table. A lot of people walked by, and we just couldn’t convince them that it was worth their time.”
    Three of the participants at the post-debate discussion were roommates who had attended the watch party together. They described the way they argued with each other over politics and how, ultimately, it made them more informed voters who were better able to understand the other side.
    One of the roommates, Caitlin Wood, said that her friends and the Howard Payne community in general had made her more knowledgeable about other points of view. “Since being in college, my mind has just been opened and I’ve been able to appreciate opinions, beliefs and perspectives a whole lot more than I could have four years ago,” Wood said. “For that I’m very thankful, and I’m thankful I live with people who disagree with me on a lot of different things.
    “It’s challenged the way I think,” Wood said.
    Moving forward, Tyler Olin said it was up to the American people to select candidates who would do a better job of debating substantively rather than running negative campaigns.
    “Our job is to pick individuals who can debate topics and aren’t just going to mudsling,” Olin said. “It’s more on us. It’s always been on us.”
    Rebecca Puente still expressed faith in the process after a difficult campaign season. “After watching this, it’s hard not to become a cynic about the system,” she said, “but I think because I admire our form of government … I don’t lose faith in the fact that this is how our system has worked all this time and, as disappointed as I am in the choices that we have, it’s still a really good system.”
    Election Day is on Tuesday, November 8.