What does it take to get college students to stop partying on a Friday night? A 72-year-old Vietnam veteran and a lanky lawyer talking for 90 minutes, apparently.
Across the normally raucous Wriston Quadrangle Friday night, all was quiet as students huddled indoors to watch the first presidential debate.
In Salomon 001 the Janus Forum co-hosted one of many debate-watching parties, which overflowed with students eager to see John McCain and Barack Obama face off.
The excitement in the atmosphere was palpable, and students cheered, laughed, booed and clapped during various parts of the debate. At points, Janus Forum fellows passed out $600 worth of pizza to hungry spectators. The event was co-hosted by Brown Students for Barack Obama, the College Democrats and the College Republicans.
"We thought it was our job to publicize this debate, but I don't think anybody expected such a big turn-out," said Teddy Parker '11, a Janus fellow. He added that many students had to leave because there were no more seats left.
However, Parker said he suspected many of those students went back to their rooms and viewed the debate anyway. "A lot of people I know watched the debate tonight" outside of the Janus Forum event.
Some students said they chose to come to Salomon for the environment. "I really want to see how Brown students react," Randall Leeds '09 said.
Those reactions included frustrated groans - such as when McCain mentioned his time as a prisoner of war - and laughter, such as when Obama struggled with McCain's first name. The crowd's reactions indicated a strong preference for Obama, though the event was co-sponsored by the College Republicans.
"I like when people laugh ... and groan together," Yana Vierboom '11 said. "People at Brown tend to get spirited," she added.
Less political groups also arranged events centered on the debate. Brothers of the fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi met in their lounge to watch the debate.
"Everyone just kind of wanted to get together," said Jon Aubitz '11, a member of AEPi. "I'm hoping it's like 1960 all over again," he said before the debate, referencing the historical debate in which a young John F. Kennedy out-debated Richard Nixon.
After the debate, most students The Herald interviewed said they felt that Barack Obama "won," although many noted that the debate was fairly evenly matched.