Students debate issues as election day nears
Published: Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, October 30, 2012 00:10
Last Wednesday evening in the Mandel Center for the Humanities, student panelists participated in a multi-partisan political debate that covered topics relevant to the upcoming presidential election. The event was cosponsored by the Brandeis Young Americans for Liberty, the Brandeis College Democrats and the Brandeis Libertarian Conservative Union.
The event featured students from each club, as well as a student representative from Students for a Democratic Society, in a panel format. Ryan LaRochelle PhD ’15 served as moderator for the event.
Daniel Goulden ’14 represented SDS, a non-hierarchical activist club that focuses on intersectionality, social justice, direct democracy, solidarity and cooperation, according to the group’s profile on myBrandeis.
Representing YAL were Nahum Gilliat ’14, vice president of the club, and Aaron Fried ’14, president of the club. According to the group’s myBrandeis profile, YAL “places specific importance on individual civil rights and promotes political candidates whose governance would respect these rights.”
Brandeis College Democrats member Russell Leibowitz ’14 and Ula Rutkowska ’15, treasurer, represented the Dems, a group that “aspires to bring students to the Democratic party and bring the Democratic party to students by increasing the awareness and advocacy of such ideals as compassion, diversity, and equality of opportunity for all,” according to the myBrandeis profile.
Representing the BLCU were Morris Didia ’14, club president; Nipun Marwaha ’13 and Michael Sklaroff ’13. The group “serve[s] as a forum to unite any and all conservative minded individuals on campus,” according to myBrandeis.
The debate was divided into three sections: the economy, foreign policy and social issues. A panelist from each group answered each prewritten question, which were supplied to them in advance, and was allotted 60 seconds for their response. Panelists were also allowed rebuttals, the number of which varied by section. After each of the three sections were question-and-answer sessions with the audience.
In the economy section, LaRochelle also asked about government policies with respect to the “skyrocketing costs of tuition.” Fried stated that the same government regulations that are intended to make college more affordable are the cause of this tuition spike. The static number of jobs requiring degrees and the artificially stimulated increase in college graduates are creating a “bubble not unlike the housing bubble of 2007 and 8,” said Fried.
According to Leibowitz, reducing government grants would primarily “cut off access to those who need college most” due to financial and economic factors. Despite “systemic problems,” these resources should continue with a focus on low interest rates and need-based grants, he said.
Sklaroff stated that vocational programs should be expanded. He also proposed “graduated interest rate levels” that would reflect the “intrinsic risk” of majors that lead to lower-income career paths.
According to Goulden, the City University of New York model, which provides students with affordable education, should be applied throughout the country. Students in CUNY schools pay $5,000 per year due to funding from New York City for educations comparable to those at Brandeis, said Goulden.
Other topics discussed in the economy section included the role of government, causes of the economic slowdown, solutions for the national deficit and debt, the future of Social Security and Medicare, causes of chronic unemployment and auditing the Federal Reserve.
Topics discussed in the foreign policy section included the goal of foreign policy, the future of foreign aid and the role of the United Nations.
In the social issues section, LaRochelle asked if “affirmative action-type policies should have a place in modern-day America.” Goulden stated that affirmative action is not “giving handouts” but “leveling the playing field” for those who have been historically disadvantaged.
According to Fried, it is “important to differentiate between socioeconomic status and race.” He read his response to a similar question published in the Views on the News in an Oct. 16 issue of the Justice, which stated that “[r]ace should play absolutely no role in the judgment of a person’s character, in any situation.”
Leibowitz stated that “socioeconomic factors are something that we should take into account” and that should be used as “a distinction and a judgment call” because of their impact on an individual’s school system and access to resources.
Didia stated that he agreed with Fried, and that college admission “should be based on merit, not on skin color.”
Other topics discussed in the social issues section included the legalization of marijuana, same-sex marriage, abortion and welfare and food stamps.
In their concluding statements, two panelists offered their thoughts on who students should vote for in the presidential election on Nov. 6. Rutkowska encouraged audience members to vote for Barack Obama, and Goulden stated that students should vote for “whoever you think will change the system.”