On Wednesday, October 19, Taylor Mangus ’23, Political Science, was featured on a panel on “Disarmament Education as a Solution to Peace.”
I happened to be in the right place at the right time when Marie Boster, assistant vice president of Public Affairs, approached me at the top of the Spruce St. staircase and granted me media access to the audience of the only Gubernatorial debate between Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul and Republican congressman Lee Zeldin in the race for New York State Governor in the 2022 midterm elections.
I stood at the top of the staircase of 3 Spruce St. around 6:00 p.m., talking with the President of Pace Debates, Jeremiah Williams, about interviewing a Pace Debate member interested in providing a quote for my article for The Pace Press. I had every intention of watching the debate with the other students in the Bianco Room because no students were allowed in the audience and wanted to get my quotes in advance. It was then that Boster approached me and asked if I was covering the story for The Pace Press. Upon saying yes, she led me to the table at the bottom of the staircase that I had been stalking for the past 30 minutes, handing out media and staff passes on behalf of Spectrum News 1, and handed me one.
As an amateur student journalist, the intensity and gravity of where I was and what I was doing didn’t hit me in the face until I was the only student sitting with reporters from nationally recognized publications like The New York Times, MSNBC, and CNN, among others, watching two candidates debate their way to New York States' most powerful political seat.
I happened to be in the right place at the right time.
Minutes prior to the debate, I took the opportunity to bravely ask the gentlemen behind me, Samar Khurshid, Senior Reporter for the Gotham Gazzette, for some tips on how to transcribe large events and his anticipated turnaround time for publishing, disclosing my lack of experience as I have only transcribed and reported on a much smaller scale; nothing of this magnitude.
Once the debate concluded, I was leaving the theater audience when a journalist approached me from behind and asked if I was a reporter headed to the spin room. “No,” I said, “I’m the Editor-in-Chief for Pace University’s newspaper; they’ve put me in a different room,” prompting her to dismiss me altogether. Utterly confused about what a spin room was, I made my way to the Faculty Dining Hall to start writing, but my curiosity got the better of me. I turned around to find Pace Debates Treasurer Zoe Cecil-Kempski and asked her what the spin room was. She graciously ignored my ignorance and told me it was a press conference, so I followed the massive crowd of reporters into the Schimmel Lobby to find a herd of journalists crowded in front of a clump of angled microphones on a static pole and massive cameras from the previously mentioned news outlets, with my fellow Pace Debate friends crowded around one another.
I stood my ground and made my way to the front to join the other journalists and pretended to belong. I had planned questions in advance and quickly scrolled through them, yet somehow believed it would be impossible for even one to ever leave the Notes app on my phone. One after one, the reporters asked questions like wildfire, so I leaped at the first chance of dead silence I could find while grappling with the shadow of imposter syndrome lurking over my shoulder.
One after one, the reporters asked questions like wildfire, so I leaped at the first chance of dead silence I could find while grappling with the shadow of imposter syndrome lurking over my shoulder.
The debate neglected conversations around education, so I took it upon myself to ask Congressman Zeldin to elaborate on his understanding of the phrase “end all indoctrination and brainwashing” in public education, a phrase featured publicly on his campaign website. His response asserted that his daughters were subjected to indoctrination in their classroom when assigned to write an essay discussing why Ta-Nehisi Coates chose the title of his #1 New York Times Bestseller, Between the World and Me. Congressman Zeldin then suggested that writing essays of this nature force students to think like the author, ultimately pitting them against one another rather than fostering a learning environment that encourages students “to take whatever position they want.”
A familiar feeling in an unfamiliar setting: I became high off of the adrenaline having shaken Governor Hochul’s hand, not once, but three times; standing just five feet away from a White House Representative while asking Congressman Zeldin a question no other reporter thought to address; and then being complimented by an MSNBC reporter who approached me to shake my hand at the end of the press conference.
I stood my ground and made my way to the front to join the other journalists and pretended to belong.
The Pace Debates members that remained walked to the Welcome Center to recalibrate and gush over what we had witnessed minutes prior. In between interviewing Pace Debate members in our makeshift greenroom, I received a text from my father who shared with me the New York Times’ review of the debate. Lo and behold, there, in the middle of the article, was a picture of Governor Hochul shaking hands with a mystery girl after addressing the press who happened to be me. You can only see a sliver of my face, my folder and phone prompted in the crevice of my left arm, but the white silk sleeve poking out of the crowd of Pace Debate members belonged to me.
That night, I was awake until 4:00 a.m. writing the article to be published on The Pace Press website, challenging myself to emulate the fast-paced turnaround time of the reporters I had the privilege of sitting amongst, whose articles I had read minutes after the media dispersed.
If you happened to watch the debate or missed out and want to learn more, I encourage you to read my article highlighting policy reforms that both parties wish to enact if elected and what Pace University students had to say about them.