Platform Hearings, Speed Dating, and Picking a Presidential Candidate
In February, Ohio Wesleyan University will host a two-day Mock Presidential Nominating Convention, a campus tradition dating back to 1884.
The OWU event, held regularly since 1920, occurs every four years in conjunction with the national presidential election. It gives students hands-on experience in holding platform hearings, drafting and debating a party platform, and nominating and electing candidates to run for the offices of president and vice president. OWU’s Mock Convention always focuses on the party not currently in office, so February’s event will simulate a Republican Party nominating convention.
Politics and government majors Emma Drongowski ’16 and Ben Thieman ’17 are serving as co-executive directors of the event with guidance from advisor Ashley Biser, associate professor of politics and government.
“The goal,” Drongowski says, “is to be as accurate to a real convention as possible, all while educating students.”
An estimated 400 students, faculty, staff, and community members will participate in Mock Convention 2016, to be held Friday, Feb. 5, from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturday, Feb. 6, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in University Hall’s Gray Chapel.
Platform hearings already have begun to help frame issues that will be incorporated into the final party platform. Issues being addressed are the problem of ISIS, the impact of immigration, and the politics of student debt.
“We have chosen three issues that we think are really salient and pertinent to students,” Drongowski says. “Three panelists serve at the platform hearing to represent a larger stance on the issue.”
Panelists have included faculty members Ji Young Choi (international studies/politics and government), Susan Gunasti (religion), and James Franklin (politics and government) discussing the “CrISIS in the Middle East”; Nick Crane (geology/geography), Robert Gitter (economics), and Juan Armando Rojas (modern foreign languages) discussing “Immigration in the 21st Century”; and Alice Simon (economics) along with Ben Andrews (doctoral candidate in sociology) and President Rock Jones discussing “The Politics of Student Debt.”
On Jan. 19, Mock Convention organizers are planning a “Speed Dating the Candidates” night, enabling participants to move from table to table meeting actors portraying the current cadre of GOP candidates.
Though the convention will focus on the Republican Party, everyone is welcome to attend, Drongowski says, regardless of party affiliation. “We try to use this opportunity as an educational opportunity rather than a partisan event,” she says, adding there are many ways for students to get involved.
“A lot of clubs, organizations, departments, and offices at OWU take a stand and represent a delegation,” Drongowski says, with students able to join or create delegations that fit best with their personal involvements or interests.
On a personal note, Drongowski says she is ecstatic about being able to participate in and help plan Mock Convention 2016.
“When I visited OWU for the Shubert Scholarship as a prospective student, it was the weekend after Mock Convention,” she recalls. “They left all the signage and fliers up from the convention, and I thought it was the coolest thing ever.”
With it being Drongowski’s senior year, the timing couldn’t be better for her to be involved. “It feels like a capstone of my P&G experience here at OWU,” she says. “And what a great way to learn in a practical application about conventions.”
She also says Mock Convention helps demonstrate how passionate Ohio Wesleyan students are about national and international issues. “It doesn’t matter what you’re excited about,” Drongowski says, “at OWU, everyone is excited about something! There are no apathetic students here.
“Mock Convention is indicative of the Ohio Wesleyan goal,” Drongowski concludes, “which is to connect a liberal arts education to a practical way of helping the world. And Mock Convention is just a perfect example of that.”