Student political organizations debate in Mitchell Hall
Patriotism was in the air last Wednesday night, as trumpet taps filled the ears of a modest Mitchell Hall attendance as students and community members settled in for an evening of spirited American debate.
Hosted by the College Republicans, the moderated debate also featured the Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The College Democrats received an invitation to the event, but a cancellation led to the organization’s replacement by the NAACP.
In an email statement, College Democrats President Jaelyn Brown said that the organization decided not to participate in the debate because it was scheduled during primetime phone banking hours. Voter contact is always a priority for the organization, Brown said, especially with the general election nearing.
After each organization delivered its opening statement, debate on the first designated topic of education began.
The College Republicans started the discussion, with senior Andrew Lipman denouncing the “broken” American public schools system. Educated in the Long Island public school system, Lipman admitted that his education background is more fortunate than the rest of the country, where he believes schools are “failing greatly.”
The YAL spoke next, echoing the message sent by the College Republicans. According to YAL Representative Alexis Meyers, current government involvement in education through programs Common Core represses the creativity of students by enforcing standardized testing. She offered the solution of directing federal funding away from public education and allow room for private and charter schools to grow.
“It’s not a money issue,” Meyers said. “It’s a matter of allocating funds.”
In response to the YAL and College Republican support for charter schools, NAACP Representative Hirak Mukhopadhyay argued that these schools are socially damaging through their perpetuation of de facto racism.
“It is very clear that people of color are not in many charter schools in the United States,” Mukhopadhyay said.
The next topic concerned taxation, with the YAL speaking first. Aaron Cooper, another YAL representative, voiced concern with the government’s use of taxpayer money and supported the abolishment of the current tax code. Similarly, he suggested the removal of the corporate income tax.
“Federal and state governments aren’t using our money correctly,” Coopers said. “So let’s not give it to them.”
The NAACP followed with a change of tone, acknowledging the value of the private sector but encouraging higher taxes on the wealthy. Mukhopadhyay also made sure to point out that the NAACP does not promote socialism.
On the third topic of the environment, the College Republicans stated that climate change and other environmental concerns are important but are not priorities on the American federal agenda. According to Lipman, America’s rich history of solving problems with capitalism will bring yet another solution.
“The American entrepreneurial spirit has solved some of the greatest problems of our time,” Lipman said. “I have no doubts that it will solve the environment.”
Regarding immigration, the YAL scrutinized the immigration process itself. According to the YAL, immigration into the United States is too difficult due to systematic complexities, and through this complicated system the United States hinders the exchange of free labor.
The planned portion of the debate closed, with the final Q&A segment opening for audience input. One audience member questioned the College Republicans’ controversial decision to host right-wing commentator Milo Yiannopoulos for a speech at the end of October, despite the speaker’s promotion of “hate rhetoric.” The content of the speech was accompanied by the placement of transphobic posters around campus prior to the event.
According to Lipman, the College Republicans had “no idea” what Yiannopoulos was going to say, reiterating the need for exposure to a variety of ideas on campus.
“If you don’t support what a feminist says, you don’t have a right to an opinion,” Lipman said. “If you don’t support what LGBT people say 100 percent, you don’t have a right to an opinion and they don’t even care to listen to why you disagree no matter how logical it may be.”
The evening concluded, and, much unlike other recent political debates, everyone left on civil terms after managing to remain focused on the issues at hand.