College Republicans, College Democrats square off for the first time

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College Republicans, College Democrats square off for the first time

Jeff Burnett, Staff Writer

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The College Republicans and College Democrats faced off in a policy debate for the first time after five years to raise awareness for the student voter registration drive.

The Volunteer and Civic Engagement Center sponsored Monday night’s event; along with UIS Forensics and The Journal, with moderators Austin Mehmet, UIS SGA president, and Sean Flamand, editor-in-chief of The Journal.

“We have tried on different occasions to get College Republicans and College Democrats and a third party to do this,” said Mark Dochterman, director of UIS Volunteer and Civic Engagement Center.

The debate followed Sunday night’s presidential town hall, but instead of focusing on emails, walls, and “locker room banter,” four policy areas were discussed: student debt, the state budget crisis, immigration, and free speech.

“When we can separate the Democratic Party from Hillary Clinton and the Republican Party from Donald Trump and really talk about the issues,” Mehmet said, “I think it’s great.”

Both teams were given the resolutions in advance in order to prepare their answers and proposals.

College Democrats kicked off the first topic on the federal government and if it should do more to help students with college tuition.

Members discussed how students can’t afford college, especially those who are from low income families who “are living paycheck to paycheck,” and stressed how our country depends on people being educated.

“We’re over here discussing more ideals and not so much the fundamentals,” said Keith Williams II, chief of staff for the College Democrats.

Their solution suggested a long-term strategy of taxing the wealthy and shifting those revenues to the growing college debt.

The College Republicans agreed that college debt has become an issue for the millennial generation, but said higher education institutions need to be held accountable for administrative costs and become more efficient in the process.

The group also mentioned that the government offering subsidized student loans has been a contributing factor to high tuition.

They offered a private sector solution with companies paying for an employee’s debt while still drawing a salary to combat the problem.

“I don’t think it’s more of a who beat who or who had better taglines,” Dominic Chiappano, president of College Republicans at UIS, said. “It was a good debate. You heard both some good arguments on both sides.”

Both groups went back and forth about the Illinois budget crisis and how both Gov. Bruce Rauner and Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, put forth unbalanced budgets.

College Republicans held firm with Gov. Rauner’s position that Illinois’s spending is out of control and that the state also has revenue problems, but said that bipartisan reforms would help with the impasse and give local governments more control over spending.

“State workers are the highest paid in the nation,” said Nathan Hoffman, member of College Republicans and student trustee.

Speaker Madigan became the central focus of the budget issue.

College Democrats deflected from their state party leader and focused on Gov. Rauner’s spending cuts and how it has impacted social programs and the elderly.

“To save money, do we rob citizens of their rights?” asked Williams.

Both discussed their positions on immigration with security and discrimination being mentioned, but the recent “hate chalking” on the UIS campus quickly became the focus for the last topic of freedom of speech.

“I thought it was good, especially toward the end where they were dealing with some of the issues prevalent on campus,” Dochterman said.

The College Republicans believed that university campuses are a “free marketplace of ideas” and that there is a distinction between “hate speech” and “building a wall,” referring to Trump’s border policy.

The College Democrats said that people cannot just say what they want anymore and that “freedom of speech comes with responsibility.”

“The audience loved it, that’s always good, and overall it was a good dialog to have on campus to get people to register to vote,” said Chiappano.

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