Election Night Epicenter

USF's election night Watch Party featured food, fun and lots of local, national and global media, cheerleaders and, of course, an appearance by Rocky.


Photo: Aimee Blodgett | USF News


By Adam Freeman

USF News


TAMPA, Fla. (Nov. 6, 2012) – Tuesday night's "Tailgate Watch Party" at the Marshall Student Center put the University of South Florida front and center on the national stage as a nation elected the next president of the United States.


Students, faculty and the public mingled about the green outside the student center, watching election returns being projected on the side of the nearby USF Bookstore building. Media crews from around the country and the globe filed live reports from the Tampa campus throughout the night.


Earlier in the evening, the crowd enjoyed food, music and performances by USF cheerleaders and other student groups.


The event was sponsored by a number of student organizations and kicked off around 5 p.m. with student checking in on social media networks, including FourSquare. Earlier in the day, students lined up to vote in the voter precinct in the student center.


USF student organizations organized a successful voter registration drive this fall, resulting in nearly 1,900 people registered to vote. That was up from less than 1,200 people who were registered in 2008.



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The voting line outside the student center was constant Tuesday morning as students waiting for their ballots. Media crews interviewed students, and satellite trucks jockeyed for position outside the student center in preparation for live broadcasts throughout the day and night.


“I think this year we’ve really prioritized registering to vote,” said Gabriela Irizarry, historian of the Beta Eta Chapter of Omega Phi Beta. “USF students are now more politically inclined, which was our goal.”

The watch party will also play host to several media outlets, both local and global, which will be broadcasting live as election night returns stream in from around the country.


“Students can come, have fun, and enjoy a special moment in history,” Shanika White, president of the Kappa Iota Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, said of the watch party. “I think students are excited for the event and I think the turnout will be excellent.”


USF Student Government President Brian Goff is predicting a solid turnout Tuesday night for the watch party event, which in addition to the media will feature Rocky, the Sun Dolls and the USF Cheerleaders. Refreshments will be served.


Florida, as one of the swing states, is being closely watched. BBC Radio, Sky News and the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. will be filing live reports throughout the night from the tailgate party, along with CBS, ABC and other outlets.


 “There is tons of energy around this,” Goff said. “We’ve passed out fliers, buttons, as well as blasted out the information on Facebook and Twitter to generate interest. The interest in this event reflects what we’ve been seeing in voter registration numbers and participation on campus.”


The election night watch party begins at 5 p.m. and will continue until 1 a.m. Television coverage and election results will be projected onto the west wall of the USF Bookstore. The event is sponsored by Student Government, the NAACP, Omega Phi Beta and Delta Sigma Theta.


The BBC 5Live broadcast will feature interviews with USF faculty experts discussing top issues in the campaign and with students representing the much-coveted youth vote in the 2012 election. The network is also hosting a panel discussion with students, local political leaders and experts from approximately 6 to 7 p.m.; WUSF will simultaneously broadcast the discussion.


Attendees should bring stadium chairs, footballs and corn toss games to complete the tailgate party theme. Parking fees and restrictions will be waived in the three lots adjacent to the Marshall Student Center (behind the USF theaters) and all levels of the Crescent Hill garage beginning at 5 p.m.


“A lot of students on campus are excited about the election and the watch party.  I think it will be very memorable just to say we were a part of it,” said Clinton Coutain, president of the USF Chapter of NAACP.


Adam Freeman can be reached at 813-974-9047.