The College Republicans and the College Democrats met in Kolbe Hall last Thursday, Oct. 29, for their first annual debate. The event was hosted by No Labels of Akron and Pi Sigma Alpha.
The purpose of the event was to “foster bipartisan dialog between the parties,” according to moderator David Matheny, president of Pi Sigma. He emphasized that the plan for the event was not for the parties to bicker, but to “deal with issues facing society today.”
Each organization had a minute to answer the moderators’ question, followed by a thirty-second rebuttal from the opposing side. The moderators posed several questions, which dealt with topics ranging from Planned Parenthood funding to gun control.
Although the opposing parties had differing opinions on every issue, they were able to find some common ground on most of them, especially immigration reform.
Republican Conner Shaw dispelled the idea that Republicans are anti-immigration. Referring to Donald Trump, he said, “We’re not all in favor of a 1,000-mile wall,” drawing laughs from the audience. He went on to argue for improvements to the legal immigration system, as well as a pathway to citizenship for those who are already in the country.
“We share a dream of a better life in the country that we love,” democrat Hamzah Syed said. He pointed out that many people come to America for safety, and that we need to support these immigrants.
When the debate turned to university issues, both parties agreed that communication between students and administrators needs to be strengthened.
“I’d like to see [President] Scarborough address students face-to-face [more often],” Dominic Grossi, a democrat, said.
Citing the recent USG Town Hall event, Republican Brandon Vetter said that “we need more open rhetoric, not just scripted answers.”
Over the course of the debate, each party had several strong answers and powerful moments. On the republican side, Jonathan Flanagan gave a personal anecdote about the brokenness of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Democrat Nicholas Golina cited academic research in his appeal for criminal justice reform.
Courtney Powell, president of the College Republicans, thought that the event went well.
“I’m glad that we could go over everything without getting at each other’s throats,” Powell said.
Ryan Fink, a student attendee, echoed Powell’s sentiments, adding his opinion on which party won.
“I like the idea of an open debate,” Fink said. “I think that the Democrats clearly had the better answers. I think the republicans conducted themselves less proficiently.”
Matheny, the head moderator, also agreed that the debate was a success. He was pleased that the event was able to “get us together on campus to discuss these political issues.”