Secretary Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders campaigned at the UNH Field House this past Wednesday in an effort to reach out to student voters while discussing the issue of debt free college. Other Democrats spoke as well, including New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan and Representative Carol Shea-Porter, both of whom are up for election in November.
The event drew roughly 1,200 people according to Victor Reyes, the Clinton Campaign’s press secretary for New Hampshire. By the time attendees were allowed in, the line extended from the Field House entrance to the Boulder Field parking lot. Most attendees were from the local community rather than students. The lack of student representation was most apparent when Clinton asked for those who had college debt to raise their hands. Of the 1,200 attendees, no more than a quarter raised their hands.
Among those students who did make it in, there was Emerson Doiron, the social media coordinator for the UNH College Democrats. Doiron barely made it into the event herself and had plenty of criticism for how the process was handled.
“A lot of students were there, but I think more should have been,” Doiron said. “It wasn’t lack of trying to get students there because there were student orgs pushing it, professors were pushing it, College Dems. were pushing it. It’s more of the campaign and the staffers who aren’t students. Because you have these higher ups who don’t really understand how colleges work.”
Doiron said she believes the process of organizing the event could have gone differently. “In my mind there should’ve been a separate line for students and then once all of the students got in, then other people could go in,” she said. “To have a student event and not have tons of students, just doesn’t seem fair. Some of my friends were texting me telling me they couldn’t get in.”
For those who were able to attend, the main discussion points revolved around Clinton’s main initiative to deal with student debt and debt free college. Senator Sanders, throughout his presidential campaign, had pushed for free college at public universities. He has now joined Clinton’s policy proposal for debt free college, which aims to have the federal government give grants to states that provide tuition-free college, along with excluding any family making less than $125,000 from having to pay any tuition costs. This isn’t the complete detailed plan, but those are the main promises that Senator Sanders called “revolutionary.”
Aside from the issue of debt free college, Clinton and Sanders spent time on a wide of range of topics, ranging from climate change to income inequality. Trump was briefly mentioned in relation to the debate, but other than that, the duo stuck to discussing the issues. Speech points that were featured heavily in Sanders’ primary campaign came up as he encouraged students and other members of the community to join the political revolution and get Congress to implement Clinton’s policy proposals.
Not everyone who went to the event was on board with Clinton. A group of Jill Stein and Green Party advocates stood outside in public space to protest the Clinton/Sanders campaign stop. Alan MacDonald from Wells, Maine showed up to protest against what he called, “the empire.” According to MacDonald, Clinton and Donald Trump both represent the “American empire” and he said that Clinton and Trump are equally bad. Holding a sign that read “Political Revolution Against Empire,” Wells said that event organizers told him to either stand behind trucks and vans over at the “free speech zone” or stand on the side walk in public space.
Clinton will continue her campaign for another 40 days until the election on Nov. 8. She called on UNH students and community members around the state to get out and vote for her this election. She said, “None of this [campaign proposals]will happen unless you turn out to vote.” Sanders called on everyone to get their aunts, uncles and everyone they know to get out and vote.
As the election grows nearer, the poll numbers get closer. New Hampshire was last won by a Republican in 2000 by George Bush, and Clinton, with the support of Sanders and others, is working to keep that from happening this time amid this year’s very intense race.