The debate’s effect on Oakland University



The Republican presidential debate hosted by CNBC and the Michigan Republican Party brought Oakland University — and its students — onto the national stage.

Students who weren’t able to secure one of only 60 tickets to the debate, held inside the O’Rena, got involved in a myriad of ways. About 400 students and alumni were in attendance at an official watch party held concurrently on campus.

Kaylee Sullivan attended the party, which featured speeches from Gov. Rick Snyder, OU President Gary Russi, Michigan Republican Party Chariman Robert Schostak, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, Attorney General Bill Schuettes and Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson.

Sullivan self-identifies an independent who generally leans more toward the Democratic party, but said she appreciated the event being held on campus.

“(Michigan) plays a big role in our domestic economy and what we provide for the country in the auto industry,” said Sullivan, a senior international relations major. ”To have them (the candidates) come here and actually talk about issues that we need to hear is pretty important for us.”

Gov. Snyder was enthusiastic about a major event being held in Michigan.

“It’s great to see the number of young people here get involved,” Gov. Snyder said. “It’s how I got started and I hope that fire and passion keeps going. It’s about us working together to solve problems.”

Jennifer Holchyuk, a journalism major, said the experience affected her twofold.

“I really wanted to see what goes on with the media aspect,” said Holchuyk, who is a Republican. “It’s also a historical event at Oakland University.”

With OU’s location commonly confused, students hope the debate will provide clarity for the future.

“I think it is fantastic that OU can get some national recognition,” Katlyn Leidal, volunteer for the debate and elementary education major. “Hopefully it will clarify OU’s identity crisis, the university in Rochester, Michigan, as opposed to California.”

Other students were not so pleased with their experience. Senior communication and cinema studies student Katie Hepfinger was relegated to helping with parking efforts.

That meant standing outside during inclement weather.

“I was kind of hoping for something different and wanted to take something away from it,” said Hepfinger, the program director of WXOU radio. “It was really disorganized.”

OU’s chapter of the College Republicans decided to endorse former House Speaker Newt Gingrich following the debate.

OUCR President Josh Cline said the event has “energized” his organization and hopes it helps build a stronger base for GOP activities at Oakland.

The group held a reception prior to the debate that featured appearances from former Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop and former U.S. Represenative Pete Hoekstra.


Audio Interviews from

Gov. Rick Snyder

Dr. Gary Russi