The Baruch College Democrats and Baruch College Republicans hosted a political debate on Nov. 3 in the Bearcat Den. The event was cosponsored by the History Club and the Undergraduate Student Government.
The goal of the debate was to facilitate discussion among college-aged voters before they go out to vote on Nov. 8. Brian Zumba, a junior and public affairs major, moderated the debate.
Zumba, who is politically active outside of school, said he was ready for the challenge because it requires drive and preparation.
At the start of the event, Zumba explained that the debate would cover five topics: education, immigration, minimum wage, police reform and the Second Amendment. Following Brian’s introduction, USG President Daniel Dornbaum took the podium and thanked everyone for coming out to see the debate and reminded everyone that it was a critical election year.
The debate opened with the question of whether college education should be free. The Democrats said that education is a fundamental aspect of society, but the United States has $1.3 trillion in student loan debt to pay off.
The Republicans, also known as the Right Wings, challenged this stance by saying that there were misguided attempts to offer free education to students, but government sponsorship of these schools results in high tuition. This ignores the quality of poor K-12 schools and a push for trade schools. While the Democrats said that the country needs to put limits on tuition hikes, the Republicans reported that we must consider the way in which we subsidize budgets from federal money.
The topic then switched to the DREAM Act and Zumba asked if illegal immigrants should be given the same level of assistance as legal students in public schools. Republicans opened the discussion by saying that Ronald Reagan’s amnesty was a failure and there was no progress in the last 30 years. They proposed securing the border with motion sensors that would alert Border Patrol when illegal immigrants are trying to cross it. On the other hand, Democrats argued that the Dream Act is a humanitarian effort to make illegal immigrants come out of the shadows and receive basic rights that U.S. citizens take for granted.
During a brief break, Ryan Kelly, a member of the Right Wings, disclosed that he is interested in civil liberties. Kelly is a sophomore majoring in political science and identifies as a libertarian. He believes that the government should stay out of economic issues.
“There’s a misconception about Republicans, but we think that everything should be approached with peaceful means,” he says. “I am also fascinated with the Second Amendment, an issue that affects everyone. With mass shootings, it is a hot debate because people either support it or are against it.”
The next subject was police reform. The Democrats pointed out that there was a distrust of police officers stemming from how they enforce laws. The Democrats also argued that the police have unnecessary access to military equipment and that there is an implicit bias in poor neighborhoods, which contributes to racial issues. However, the Republicans said that we cannot succumb to sensationalism, and that there should be amplified police training.
The debate progressed to the Second Amendment, when Republicans argued that a weapons ban invites criminals to commit assault and burglary. Democrats took an opposite perspective by stating that guns equal crime.
As the debate neared its end, the topics shifted toward wages and the economy. The Republicans voiced that minimum wage hurts small businesses, while the Democrats communicated that a trickle-down economy system does not work.
When the debate finished, both clubs took several audience questions. The questions dealt with how a no-fly zone in Syria might affect the risk of starting a war with Russia, illegal immigration regarding wages, mental health programs, police and a plan to fix the national debt.
Patrick Feeney, a sophomore who is a public affairs major and a member of the Baruch College Democrats, said, “I think being informed is important, because politics affect people’s lives. We all know sports and the Kardashians, but do we know government? It’s dangerous.”
Patrick revealed that he was particularly passionate about social economics, including programs that help poverty-stricken people gain access to free education. He is eager on the topics of minimum wage and housing.
“It’s important that people are interested in politics, because there is a lack of interest among young people,” said Dornbaum. “This debate was [a] team effort between USG and these two clubs, as both clubs were interested in having a debate. This was a good-natured friendly debate where panelists answered questions, and a room packed with students had questions.”
The Right Wings had a budget proposal meeting with USG on Oct. 17, and have an established presence on campus. The Baruch College Democrats received a club charter at the end of the Spring 2016 semester.