About 150 Iona College students and members of the New Rochelle and surrounding community came to Murphy Auditorium on the college campus to discuss issues in the presidential campaign.
The event was part of the 2012 Westchester Presidential Debate Watch Party series and featured a live CNN telecast of the debate between President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney, the final presidential debate before the election Nov. 6
The predebate discussion was moderated by Steven Horton, executive director of the New Rochelle Municipal Housing Authority. The panel was comprised of Dr. Mary Hagerty, political science professor at Iona, Amanda Kelly and Bridget McBrien, Class of 2013 political science majors, Dr. Tricia Mulligan, chairwoman and political science professor at Iona, Councilman Jared Rice, D-District 3, and Tony Sayegh, News 12 political analyst. Joe McLaughlin, Republican candidate for Congressional District 16, was scheduled to appear but had a conflict that prevented him from attending until the very end.
The panel dealt with three questions before taking questions from the audience.
Up first, Horton asked the panel to evaluate the presidential candidates' plans for dealing with escalating costs of higher education.
Mulligan said while both candidates have talked about how important education is for the United State there has been little discussion about how their plans would affect the institutions themselves.
Increasing Pell grants would help, she said, but "the reality is with increasing enrollment, that pool of aid is not growing proportionally.
"I'd like to see a greater blueprint where the funds will come from," Mulligan said.
As a student, Kelly said that dealing with the cost of education is something she is extremely concerned about.
"In terms of evaluating their plans, they both want to make college more affordable," she said. "I think the effectiveness of both plans really need to be better explained."
The presidential debate Monday was scheduled to be on foreign policy, so the panelists were asked to evaluate the candidates' positions on that topic.
Hagerty said that Romney's views on foreign affairs were pretty much a cypher.
"One of the incumbents major strengths is foreign policy," she said. "Hopefully we will find out more tonight."
O'Brien said she was worried about some the more saber-rattling comments from Romney.
"It could open us up to years of conflict," she said.
The panel discussion ended with whether they were satisfied with either candidate's proposals for job creation.
Sayegh said the stimulus bill did not create jobs.
"The only meaningful way we are going to grow the economy is to allow the private sector to create jobs," he said.
Hagerty decried the finger pointing during the campaign.
"We live in very challenging economic times," she said, adding that the government is putting out more money and taking in less.
"We have got to cut our most expensive expenses and try to increase our revenue stream," Hagerty said. "I don't think the blame game is very constructive."
Questions from the audience included the lack of third-party participation in the debates, whether the Supreme Court will address the constitutionality of Affirmative Action and the wisdom of bringing manufacturing jobs back to America when most people are looking for white-collar positions.
Kenny Reischman, a sophomore mass communication major at Iona, asked what could be done about the partisan actions of government stopping the legislative process.
Rice said it was clear from the day after Obama was elected that the Republican leadership would do everything they could to deny him a second term.
"They didn't want to give him any victories," he said. "I think we are in the era of hyperpartisanship. There is a lot of silliness going on."
Sayegh reminded the audience that Ronald Reagan worked with a Democratic-majority House and Senate and was able to move legislation through.
"He did that by working with in a bipartisan way," he said.
After watching the two presidential candidates sparring for an hour and a half, Teresa Richardson of Mount Vernon said that Obama definitely won.
"I just think that Romney doesn't have the level of knowledge of international affairs that Obama does," she said. "He reiterated what Obama was saying. He doesn't have the authority to say it."