On Oct. 26, the Baruch College Democrats and the Baruch College Republicans, held their second annual debate in Room 2-125 of the Newman Vertical Campus. The debate was centered around issues relating to New York City, and the debaters from the College Democrats and the College Republicans, also known as The Right Wings, represented their respective party’s candidate in the mayoral election: Bill de Blasio for the College Democrats and Nicole Malliotakis for the Right Wings.
“[Debates] hopefully allow people to make informed decisions,” said Brian Zumba, the debate’s moderator and a student in the Marxe School of Public and International Affairs.
“For those who are in the middle or undecided and don’t know which candidate to support based on how they feel on the issues, debates really offer them a chance to see how the candidates respond to real-life scenarios and real-life questions,” Zumba concluded. Zumba, who is active locally in the politics of his neighborhood of Corona, was also the moderator of the first debate last year.
For the first half of this year’s debate, participants tackled questions pertaining to budgeting, taxes, transportation and housing before Zumba called intermission. Much of the discussion revolved around the “summer of hell,” or the delays that plagued the Metropolitan Transportation Authority system, as well as zoning laws and gentrification.
The second half consisted of questions submitted by the audience, with topics including New York City’s status as a sanctuary city, the closing of Rikers Island and the candidacy of Richard “Bo” Dietl, a former New York City Police Department detective. The question of Dietl’s candidacy was received with laughs by the participants and several “Big Bird” jokes, a reference to Dietl telling Democrat Sal Albanese, a former contestant for mayor, to “kick Big Bird’s ass” during his debate with incumbent de Blasio in August.
Toward the end of the debate, participants addressed what Zumba referred to as the “pay-to-play culture” in New York politics with both sides identifying various instances of corruption throughout the city’s recent history.
What both sides agreed on, however, was the importance of holding open debates. “Both sides tend to learn something from [them],” said Vincent Gangemi, a public affairs major, and president of The Right Wings. “Even if they don’t end up agreeing, they find new perspectives, and they’re able to form better opinions in the end.”
Gangemi’s club works to give conservative students a platform that he claims they would not have otherwise.
“Students, oftentimes, despite the model that college is offered as, don’t have a voice in class if they’re conservative. So when we hold events like this, we feel that the students generally feel like they’re being heard at last. Our model is we want to both serve the people who are passionate, who want to work in politics or a [nonprofit] and need us to find them internship opportunities, but we also want to serve students who have majors not related to political science at all and just want to come maybe once a month to an event and get their opinions across,” said Gangemi.
“I think this is a great opportunity to increase political involvement on-campus and inspire people to get more involved,” claimed Isik Basarir, a human resources management major and president of the Baruch College Democrats who also debated on behalf of her club. “Also,” added Basarir, ”it’s a good platform for college students to voice their opinions and, especially for CUNY and public school students, I think it’s even more important.“
“For one,” Basarir said, “it seems that Baruch students lean more toward the right instead of the left and our biggest challenge is to get people to realize that the Democratic Party is on the immigrants’ side and on the side of lower-income families — not the Republicans.”
The Baruch College Democrats host and promote numerous events throughout the year that allow networking opportunities for young adult Democratic voters and political organizers.
On Oct. 19, the club held a stump speech competition for young, aspiring politicians and public officials, alongside Baruch’s chapter of IGNITE, an organization that seeks to increase political participation and power among women college students.
The mayoral election will occur on Nov. 7 alongside a number of elections for local seats in the city and state legislatures. Voter registration forms are available year-round at the Office of Student Life in NVC 2-210. Current voter registration status is public record and can be checked on the website for the New York State Board of Elections.
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