The University’s two political clubs gathered for a debate in hopes of sparking student interest about political issues such as women’s rights, education and gun rights.
The College Democrats and College Republicans held their first political debate on March 13 in the George Rowland White Theater in the University Center. Michael Gieseke, senior assistant of Campus Life, served as moderator of the debate.
“The fact that [students] came, sat down and listened to a debate is awesome,” said College Republicans President Joe Rittenhouse in the University Center after the debate. “We wanted people to have an opinion. I think we succeeded.”
Rittenhouse, Ryan Bjorklund and Alexandra Milbrath comprised the Republican team. The College Democrats team included President Alyssa Knierim, Alice-Marie Sanchez and Lauren McCuen.
“I feel like students were definitely interested and engaged,” said Knierim after the event. “It went really well for the first time.”
A Twitter hashtag, “#ppudebate” was created to generate conversation during the debate. There were a total of 104 tweets from 24 contributors by the end of the event.
Much of the Twitter conversation included commentary about the College Democrats use of the statement, “The law is the law” as well as the College Republicans rebuttals, which focused heavily on the statement.
Mary Kate Hoag (@mkhoagie) tweeted, “All I got from this debate is that the law is the law and Joe Rittenhouse based all his rebuttals on that joke. #PPUDebate.”
Rittenhouse said the College Democrats use of that phrase benefited his team.
“Just because it’s the law doesn’t mean it’s right,” Rittenhouse said. “People make things better, not laws.”
There was also significant Twitter conversation about the debate on women’s rights.
Milbrath presented the majority of the republican team’s position of women’s rights, according to Rittenhouse, because he and Bjorklund feared being seen as sexist.
“[Milbrath] presented a side I think many people don’t hear,” Rittenhouse said. “This was an opportunity to show a different side to the discussion.”
Knierim said she thinks both sides did well, but the College Democrats came out on top in the discussions about women’s rights, education and gun control.
“There were good arguments across the board, but [the College Republicans] definitely had us beat on foreign policy,” Knierim said.
Rittenhouse sees the debate differently. He said the College Republicans were the “clear winner,” beating the College Democrats in debate discussions about gun rights, Obamacare, the economy and student loans.
“I think we came in there with facts and walked out winners,” Rittenhouse said. “The democrats were more prepared to make an emotional argument. That helped their case a lot.”
Knierim and Rittenhouse said both political organizations would like to see a debate happen again, but with some changes that include extending the debate time and focusing on more topics. The debate covered topics ranging from domestic issues like tuition and college debt to international issues, such as the United States’ role in Ukraine and Syria.
“I wish we had more time to go over issues like tuition,” Rittenhouse said. “We want to do few questions and take questions from the audience directly.”