The music blared and balloons filled the room at one of several campus debate watch parties as students at Hofstra University reveled in their school’s place in presidential history.
For more than 90 minutes, students gathered in the Hofstra recreation center — a short 10-minute walk from the debate hall — to watch the first debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
Minutes into the debate, the crowd cheered when Clinton took jabs at Trump, particularly when — responding to his statements on her foreign trade policies — she said: “Well, Donald, I know you live in your own reality, but that is not the facts.”
“This is truly an amazing experience to watch this. Trump makes absolutely no sense,” said Angela Steele, 19, of Santa Clara, California, a sophomore biology major with plans to become a physician.
“Clinton has been firm. She’s been handling the jabs very well and doing her best to do what she can to have a mature political debate with what’s basically a 5-year-old,” said Steele, who put her head in her hands at some points as the candidates were speaking.
Race and equality issues were among the top concerns of the hundreds of students at the watch party, where a collective “Oh my God” resounded when Trump talked about gangs and illegal immigration.
For the hundreds of students who didn’t win a seat in the debate hall, the four campus watch parties allowed them to be a part of the event.
Among them was John Spranklin of East Lyme, Connecticut, who said his main issues were the economy and the job market.
“It’s really scary to think how invested I am in my education and there might not be any jobs when I graduate,” said Spranklin, a film major.
After hearing their responses to the jobs question, Spranklin said: “Trump is making the better point in that he is saying companies are leaving because we don’t have the environment for businesses and he’s right. It doesn’t seem like either have a good plan but I’m glad that he is at least pointing out the problem.”
Spranklin, 19, said he backed Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary and would make his pick of Trump or Clinton over the next few weeks.
Lynn Luong, 19, a sophomore computer science major from Philadelphia, said she wanted a third-party candidate on the stage Monday night.
“Even though I support Hillary and definitely not Trump, I think it is absurd they aren’t allowing the others into the debate,” said Luong, referring to Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein.
After hearing responses during the race section, Luong said: “When you unravel what Trump said in his two minutes about racial healing, all he says is that he wants to help the inner city because he has investments there.”
Luong said she believes the race issue is “what’s hurting the most people right now.” She said she can’t support Trump because “he is everything this country is not.”
Though some Hofstra students publicly support Trump, it appeared the majority of the crowd at the recreation center party were vocally in favor of Clinton.