On Oct. 24, 10 Sacred Heart University students participated in “The Great Debate” in Martire’s Dr. Michelle Loris Forum. It was a faceoff between the College Democrats and Republicans, who debated five hot-button political issues including abortion, gun rights, foreign policy, healthcare and voter ID laws.
The debate lasted roughly an hour and a half, and each debater was granted two minutes to make an opening statement. Next, the moderators asked a question related to the topic, which led to eight minutes of open discussion. Lastly, each side was given two minutes to make a closing statement.
“The reason I decided to organize The Great Debate was to promote civic engagement from the student body,” said senior Alejandro Ramos, Student Government Executive President and Spectrum staff writer. “I am a steadfast believer that through civil discourse anything can be accomplished.”
The debate was co-moderated by Ramos and Dr. Gary L. Rose, a political science professor and Chair of the Government Department.
“The biggest benefit of ‘The Great Debate’ was to demonstrate how political differences can be articulated in a clear and thoughtful manner and how partisan differences can be respected by those on opposite sides of the issues being debated,” said Rose.
The forum was filled to capacity, including the balcony level. There were well over 100 people in attendance, including students, faculty and administrators.
“My favorite part would have to be the spar I had with Republican leader Jack Kurnik during the debate,” said sophomore debater and Democrat team leader Anna Macaulay. “We both wanted to engage in thoughtful and informative discussions, while also making it fun and entertaining for the guests.”
This debate put the abilities of the debaters to the test since not all of them agreed with the sides they were arguing in favor of.
“I believe the event was a safe space for the debaters to be able to present the different views of hot-button topics that are currently relevant in this country,” said junior debater Ciara Monteverdi. “My co-debaters, myself included, felt extremely confident and comfortable with the respect shown from our opponents, mediators and spectators.”
Each topic focused on a specific area of the issue. For example, the abortion debaters highlighted the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling from this year that overturned Roe v. Wade (1973) and Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992) and South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham’s law that bans most abortions after 15 weeks of conception.
“This event was an effective way to get students more engaged in political issues,” said junior debater Ashley Czermack. “Hearing debates from students instead of politicians is very different and arguably more beneficial to the youth demographic.”
According to Forbes, only 40% of college students voted in the 2018 midterms. With the upcoming election, this debate served as a way to inform students on political issues while encouraging them to become more politically active.
“I feel that showcasing the platforms of the two major parties in a debate setting where they can be contested helped the university community in attendance come to understand key hot-button issues in current politics and understand the implications of many policies recommended by political hopefuls running for election in November,” said senior debater Jack Kurnik.
This will not be the last great debate seen at SHU this academic year, as Ramos has chosen to continue this 40-year tradition.
“I have decided that I will be hosting at least one more debate next semester through my commission,” said Ramos. “I am even exploring the idea of hosting panels to discuss these big political topics in the future too.”
Ally Botto contributed to this article.