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Erik Burgess, Published October 03 2012

Students, faculty mark off grids in debate bingo

FARGO – As a college student, the fear of not getting a job after school should be fairly daunting.

But on Wednesday night, Evan Johnson, a junior at North Dakota State University, smiled wide after hearing mention of the country’s high unemployment rate.

Johnson was playing presidential debate bingo, an event held on the NDSU campus in which about 30 students and faculty followed along with the debate between President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney, marking off their bingo grids as either speaker said key words or phrases.

Johnson checked off “balanced budget,” “middle class,” “education” and “jobs,” before finally winning on “unemployment.”

“I guess it is kinda funny,” the college junior said with a smile. “But I’m pretty happy to live in North Dakota where there are lots of jobs and opportunities.”

Adjudicated by David Silkenat, an assistant professor of history and education at NDSU, debate bingo was the first of several events to be held on campus focused on the debates.

A lot is at stake for students in this election, Silkenat said, so engaging them is important.

“There are a number of issues about college financing, about jobs, about civil liberties that are very much in play in this election,” he said. “And I think students should be informed and have a voice in it as much as they can.”

For Johnson, seeing Romney next to Obama helped clear some of the election clutter.

“Watching the debate, it becomes most clear how they contrast,” he said.

In the game, similar words counted, so when Obama said “energy independent,” players marked the square that read “energy independence.” However, some wording could not be fudged.

“Can we count ‘Obamacare’ as ‘Affordable Care Act?’” one student shouted in the middle of the debate. Unfortunately not, Silkenat responded.

Door prizes were given out, but beyond that, the event was meant to give students some incentive to get involved in the political process.

“It might just be a way to pull a student into the process who normally would’ve just ignored it,” said Ann Burnett, associate dean in the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.

NDSU is holding three more events for the remaining presidential and vice presidential debates.

On Oct. 11, the forensics team will do a parliamentary-style “division of the house” event. On Oct. 16, a campaigns and elections class will have a national Twitter feed running simultaneously with the debate, and on Oct. 22, a political science discussion will be held.

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518