The College Democrats and College Republicans convened in the Welles-Brown room of Rush Rhees Library on Friday to debate issues related to the recent political campaigns and timely issues. The event, designed to foster discussion without acrimony, turned out well for both sides.
“We discussed our parties’ views and of course disagreed, but it wasn’t malicious,” Republican debate representative and senior Karissa Page said. “We were just out there debating the views and not the people.”
The Political Science Undergraduate Council helped to facilitate the event, providing support, planning and funding for the debate. In bringing together the Democrats and Republicans, PSUGC in essence hosted the event.
In planning the event, PSUGC helped the sides to determine three topics for debate. After discussion, the sides agreed to debate the economy, immigration and the future of the war in Iraq.
The debate was observed by about 30 students, who had the opportunity to ask questions of the political representatives at certain points in the debate.
Moderating the debate was Speaker of the Students’ Association Senate Halley Cohn, who maintained order throughout the proceedings.
“The atmosphere was more civil than I expected it to be,” College Democrats president and sophomore Calley Beckwith said. “The two sides did their homework, so it was nice for everyone to be calm and respond to questions with facts.”
The three College Democrat representatives in the debate were senior Ayman Bekdash and freshmen Patrick Chase and Trevor Kellogg. The College Republicans were represented by senior Karissa Page and junior Tony Scott.
For each topic to be discussed, each side was allotted five minutes for an opening statement, after which each could respond to the other side with a two minute rebuttal. Finally, a question and answer section was held with the audience, in which each side had 90 seconds to answer each question.
The debate was generally thought to be civil and conducted peacefully on both sides, due in part to the non-partisan PSUGC.
“Since the PSUGC moderated the debate, they helped us pick the topics,” Beckwith said. “They served as the neutral ground, and because of that, we felt that we were better able to debate the issues”
The ability to debate only the issues was viewed by both sides as an improvement on campus debates from the past.
“I was very pleased with how it was handled,” Page said. “At first I was hesitant to have a debate because when I was a freshman, we had debate and that got out of hand.”
The two sides also viewed audience participation as a positive aspect of this particular debate style.
“We were pleased to have a decent turnout,” Page said. “The audience asked thoughtful questions and seemed to be engaged.”
In all, the Republicans, Democrats and PSUGC were pleased with the event and encouraged by the level and quality of participation.
“I’ll graduate this year but I hope that they continue to host these debates in the future,” Page said.Majarian is a member of the class of 2009.