BY CELESTE KATZ Sunday, October 12th
Outside of scoring a Nobel Prize or having a basketball team play Cinderella in the NCAA Tournament, the fastest way for a college to leap onto the national stage is to host a presidential debate.
Hofstra University in Hempstead, L.I., will do just that on Wednesday.
It ain’t cheap, though.
University President Stuart Rabinowitz estimates the debate is running Hofstra $3.5 million, and “not all the bills are in.”
It cost $7,500 just to apply.
“You have to pay $1.35 million to the [Presidential Debate] Commission in order to be a host … And the rest of it [are] wiring issues and infrastructure things and constructing stages in the arena and camera platforms and running in tons of power outlets and computer outlets and wiring and so on.”
Rabinowitz’s quest to bring a presidential debate to Hofstra began three years ago, when a former commander in chief spoke on campus.
As Bill Clinton gave “an impassioned defense” of his presidency to an audience of 5,200, Rabinowitz said, “I never saw our students paying such rapt attention … I thought to myself, ‘You know, this is the best way to educate them about the current issues of the day.’
“I thought it was just natural to come at it from the other end – which was before the President was elected,” he said.
Although the debate has been a transformational experience for Hofstra, precious few students will actually get to witness the moment in person.
Two-thirds of all the tickets go to the candidates. The commission parcels out the remainder, and Rabinowitz estimates that 200 spots, at most, will be available to Hofstra. About 6,800 students have entered a ticket lottery.