GOP debate comes to Oakland University

By Kay Nguyen


Oakland University is playing the role of gracious host as the Michigan Republican Party and the CNBC news channel put on a Republican presidential debate on campus.

Although many of the details, including the identity of the moderator and the specific participants, have not been finalized, members of the planning committee have confirmed that the event will take place in the OU O’rena on Wednesday, Nov. 9.

According to Karen Kukuk, executive assistant to the president of the school, the opportunity came about when Robert Schostak, chairman of the Michigan Republican Party, suggested OU’s campus as a venue to CNBC. Schostak is a long-time donor and 1978 alum of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Talks began in the spring and the development was officially announced to the campus community through an email blast sent by OU President Gary Russi Aug. 1.

Logistical elements of academic elements surrounding the debate are still being finalized by members of a planning committee led by Michelle Piskulich, associate provost and associate professor of political science. It’s unclear how many students will actually get to watch the debate in the O’rena.

Although there is seating planned for about 1,400 people in the O’rena, only a small block of tickets will be given to Oakland.

“Students have to remember that we’re just the host and venue,” said David Dulio, a member of the planning committee and political science department chair. “It’s the Michigan GOP and, to some extent, CNBC, running the show.”

Piskulich said a limited amount of tickets would be available to students, who will be chosen through a lottery.

Students who aren’t able to get coveted tickets will still be able to get in on the action. Educational programming is being planned leading up to and following the debate; including a watch party that will be held in the banquet rooms of the Oakland Center.

Details on further programming will be finalized in the coming weeks.

Volunteer opportunities are available to students who will be able to help in a plethora of ways ranging from assisting CNBC crews and other media outlets, to directing traffic for the event.

“We’ll be looking to get a good cross-section of students who can represent the university,” Piskulich said.

In addition to the 200-plus media outlets expected to turn out for the debate, “The Today Show” might also be broadcasting from campus the following morning, according to Piskulich and other members of the planning committee.


Student volunteers are needed to perform a variety of tasks for CNBC, the Michigan Republican Party and Oakland University, among many other organizations, in the week leading up to the debate. The deadline to apply is 5 p.m. Monday, Oct. 3, but don’t expect a reply back right away. Final decisions and assignments will be made a few weeks after the deadline. Students can register to get involved at

Look-alikes sought

Do you look like a Republican presidential hopeful? As the date approaches and the list of debate participants is finalized, CNBC will need campus community members to work as stand-ins. Those who are around the same size and coloring of candidates will help CNBC with their dress rehearsal and help make sure everything runs smoothly once the candidates arrive for the debate. Applicants must also have communication skills for this paid position. Students can list their interest in this position in the general volunteer application.

Ticketing information

About 200 tickets will be made available to Oakland University by the Michigan Republican Party, though not all will be set aside for students. Students will be able to enter a lottery for tickets to the live event in the coming weeks.