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Debate Illuminates Key Issues For 2012 Election

Samantha Costanzo

Published: Thursday, March 29, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01

To help students make sense of the hubbub surrounding the recent presidential primaries and caucuses, the College Democrats and College Republicans, in partnership with UGBC, No Labels, and the AHANA Leadership Council (ALC), sponsored a political debate on Wednesday night. The debate was part of the national Rock the Vote campaign, which is aimed at getting students to register to vote. Moderator Alicia Martinez, vice president of ALC and A&S ’13, asked debaters to explain their respective party’s stance on clean energy, higher education, the state of the economy, and illegal immigration.

The first question asked the two groups to explain their respective party’s views on energy dependence, alternative resources, and the environmental cost of fossil fuels.

Stephanie Rice, vice president of the College Democrats and A&S ’13, highlighted President Barack Obama’s commitment to an “all of the above” policy that makes the best use of oil but also aims to decrease the United States’ dependence on it within 16 years.

“The president can encourage developments in alternative energy, not fix gas prices,” she said.

E.J. Risley, A&S ’14, spoke for the College Republicans next.

“The more oil in the United States market, the lower the price will be,” he said. “We are blessed to have ample places to drill. If we don’t take advantage, someone else will.”

The next question addressed the issue of rising tuition in public universities, and asked the debaters to consider the effects of these hikes on students and grants.

Kaitlin Burns, LSOE ’14, spoke for the Republicans first. According to her, the solution is to change the way people pay for college by encouraging savings and implementing a delayed tax on these savings for college.

Nick Doffek, president of the College Democrats and A&S ’13, responded by saying that Obama has been an ally to students. He cited Obama’s emphasis on community college, public service credits, and additions to the GI Bill. He also noted that low-income students rely on services such as the Pell Grant because they cannot afford to save for college.

The third question of the night focused on ways in which each party proposed to create secure jobs and deal with the national debt.

Jonathan Dame, communications director for the College Democrats and A&S ’13, focused on Obama’s money- and job-saving measures, such as his bailout of the auto industry and tax credits to small businesses.

Risley took a second turn for the Republicans and claimed that Obama has been irresponsible in his methods of dealing with the crisis. Instead, Risley advocated for a return to former President Ronald Reagan’s policies.

“The way forward begins with tax reform,” Risley said.

The debaters last discussed immigration reform and the possibilities of an equitable process leading to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

Daniel Sologuren, president of the College Republicans and A&S ’12, argued that the U.S. should provide visas to people with “in-demand skill sets,” such as those in math- and science-related fields.

He  also advocated for stricter control of the borders and a system in which illegal immigrants, if they were allowed to become citizens, be placed at the bottom of the pool of applicants.

Doffek spoke again for the Democrats and agreed that securing the borders was vital as well. He also focused on the Democrats’ plan for a path to citizenship, however, which includes a streamlined process for victims of abuse, preference for students, and supporting humane treatment of immigrants in the workforce.

“Obama has put the focus on [deporting] those who commit crimes, not students who try to better themselves,” he said.

After the debate, audience members were given the opportunity to pose their own questions.

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