The Debate at USF: An Exercise in Free Speech

From on the streets to on-stage, the GOP Debate exemplified a university’s role in nurturing free speech.



By Amy Mariani

USF News


TAMPA, Fla. (Jan. 25, 2012) – As demonstrators marched around campus repeating various politically charged chants, the candidates took the stage at the University of South Florida to discuss the issues for the 18th time this election season.


The media filing room in the Marshall Student Center Ballroom buzzed with political pundits and journalists. Rick Santorum made a quick appearance following the nationally televised debate, but soon left the room. The other candidates sent representatives to speak on their behalf, though Ron Paul joined his supporters at the Copper Top Pub just outside of USF.


Outside of the theater, a watch tent meant for 800 people became standing-room-only, with people standing outside of the tent’s entrances to get a glimpse of the debate. Demonstrators also marched, waving signs either in protest or support of certain candidates, measures and parties.


“It brings back like, kind of a 1960s atmosphere,” said USF Student Alton McCall.


Amy Mariani can be reached at 813-974-0331.