Students debate on important issues

By the students, for the students.

That was the goal of Gannon University’s presidential debate, held Sunday night. The College Democrats faced off against the College Republicans on issues such as energy independence, education and foreign policy.

Jeff Bloodworth, Ph.D., associate director of the history department and adviser of the College Democrats, acted as moderator of the debate, which was held in Room 219 of the Waldron Campus Center.

Both groups formed a list of proposed questions beforehand.

The Republicans were represented by sophomores Michael Pouch, a history major, and Louis Weyand and Jenny Amman, both political science majors. Ian Van Dyke, a junior history major, represented the Democrats.

The first question of the night went to Van Dyke, who was asked what exactly President Obama has done during his time in the Oval Office.

Van Dyke cited increased domestic oil production, new green standards for cars and the rescued auto industry as proof that the president has governed effectively.

In rebuttal, Weyand argued that the country’s economic growth has been too sluggish, evidenced by soaring food prices and the ever-rising cost of gasoline.

“It’s not working at a positive rate to where we can identify change,” Weyand said.

Amman took the next question, which asked why Gov. Romney would make a capable president. She mentioned his hand in salvaging the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics after the event was consumed by financial troubles and a bribery scandal.

Amman also said that Romney’s business savvy as cofounder of Bain Capital, the highly profitable private investment firm, would be an asset to the presidency. Van Dyke pointed out that Bain did not fit the description of the small business Romney says he wants to help.

Next, Van Dyke was asked about Obama’s plan to reduce the national deficit. He emphasized that the president’s plan, which includes $2 trillion in spending cuts, is significantly more concrete than Romney’s.

“Mitt Romney’s plan is nebulous,” he said, maintaining that Romney talks about reducing the deficit without clarifying where he would make cuts.

“But talk is cheap,” Van Dyke said.

Weyand said that Romney had a five-point plan, which aimed to achieve energy independence and improve trade.

The debate advanced to the topic of why the president did or did not deserve a second term.

“In the real world, when someone doesn’t do their job, they get fired,” Pouch said. “It doesn’t look like President Obama has done his job.”

Pouch reiterated his panel’s previous arguments, mentioning that the number of Americans on food stamps has jumped.

Meanwhile, Van Dyke said he believed the country was in fact better off than it was four years prior and needed to continue moving in that direction.

The argument-rebuttal portion of the debate ended with a question for Van Dyke – What has the president done to make the country safer?

Van Dyke noted that the president supported the use of unmanned drones to monitor and eliminate terrorists in the Middle East, which lessens the risk to American soldiers – an issue he and Romney actually agree on. Van Dyke also referred to Obama’s timetable to end the war in Afghanistan by 2014.

Bloodworth encouraged both groups to address the student audience by defending their candidates’ stances regarding higher education.

The red side stood behind the John and Abigail Adams Scholarship Program, Romney’s signature initiative that covers tuition at in-state public colleges for students who score in the top 25 percent of their district on Massachusetts’ 10th grade standardized tests.

On the blue side, Van Dyke brought up that Obama doubled funding for Pell Grants and extended health insurance coverage on a parent’s plan until age 26 under his Affordable Care Act.

The debate concluded with questions from the audience and closing remarks from both panels.

Overall, Bloodworth said he was pleased with the students’ individual performances and the debate as a whole.

“The student debaters showed themselves to be knowledgeable and able,” he said.

He said he hopes to have more discussions like this in the future, such as a monthly debate on various hot-button topics.

Van Dyke agreed.

“It does no good to pretend these issues don’t exist,” he said.



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