Students gathered to hear the College Republicans and College Democrats debate several current political issues in Hodson Hall on Tuesday at an event hosted by the JHU Politik.
The first topic of debate was higher education, and the two clubs shared potential solutions to the problem of increasing college costs.
“Access to higher education is limited, and higher education is expensive. These are statistics that really are not debatable,” freshman Emma Cook, a member of the College Democrats, said.
Cook said that increasing college costs will limit access to higher education for many people, which in turn will increase the income gap between the nation’s college-educated population and those who lack college degrees. She pointed to the weight of student debt, which can often take 15 years to pay off, as a factor that dissuades some from attending college. She advocated for more government support for students seeking higher education.
“We all believe in the power and opportunity of higher education. We’re here, and there’s no legitimate argument against increasing the expansion and affordability of higher education,” Cook said.
Sophomore Mike Bledsoe of the College Republicans responded, arguing that government subsidies have allowed institutions to raise their costs.
“What changed is that people stopped having to pay for themselves, [and] the institutions increased the price of the cost of the institution disproportionately to what was being provided,” Bledsoe said.
Bledsoe advocated that federal student loans be gradually withdrawn and the money instead be given to state governments for use in local education. He also argued that the emphasis on degrees from four-year institutions should be reduced, stressing that many careers do not technically require a degree to guarantee success.
Democrat sophomore Carli Heiman and Republican junior Daniel Takash spoke next. Heiman argued against the idea that private loans could take precedence over government loans, while Takash stressed that Bachelor of Arts degrees have undue importance.
“In today’s society, we view the B.A. as simply another requirement for job performance. We think [of] this as the barrier to entry for employment that has been established by social norms, but [B.A.’s being] heavily subsidized by governments buying into these social norms is in fact the problem,” Takash said.
Junior Annie Blackman said the higher education segment was her least favorite part of the debate.
“I felt like it kind of got off-track at some points,” Blackman said.
Junior Max Marshall agreed.
“I think it was kind of quibbling,” Marshall said.
The next topic of debate was focused on the environment and on which party had a better track record on environmental policy.
Republican junior Clayton Hale began by insisting that the Republican Party is not a party of climate change deniers.
“Climate change is a threat to our nation’s future, security and economic growth,” Hale said.
Hale said that the GOP supports a balanced approach to energy, one that incorporates renewable and non-renewable fuel sources and creates jobs by investing in American energy sources. Hale noted that one project that the GOP supports is the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which is planned to run from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.
Democrat junior Ross Terry cited the Obama administration’s achievements in the realm of environmental policy.
“Auto emissions, as of 2012, are nine percent below where the intended targets were four years previous... The production of wind energy has doubled, production of solar energy has increased 15-fold and the cost of each individual solar megawatt has decreased by three-quarters,” Terry said.
Democrat senior Alexander Grable and Republican junior Christine McEvoy further argued over both parties’ records. Grable pointed out that, while McEvoy and Hale may believe that climate change exists, the Republican Party has some members who continue to deny it.
“They’re from a party that for a long time said, ‘The consensus is not yet out on climate change,’ when in fact 97 percent of climate scientists say that global warming is man-made. Ninety-seven percent of anything, in any community, sounds like a consensus to me,” Grable said.
The final topic of debate was the preliminary nuclear agreement reached with Iran. Democrat junior Ben Schwartz and Republican junior Nitin Nainani spoke on behalf of the deal, while Democrat junior Sam Gottuso and Republican senior Matthew Lehmann argued against it.
The pro-deal side said that the deal inhibits Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Iran claims that it wants to use uranium and plutonium for only energy purposes but is widely suspected of attempting to acquire nuclear weapons.
“We believe that this framework provides a blueprint for peaceful resolution, preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and ensuring the safety of the United States and our allies around the world,” Nainani said.
Gottuso said that the deal did not adequately halt Iran’s ambitions and that it was crucial for the United States to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
“Some may argue that the U.S. doesn’t even have a right to intervene in Iran, but it’s clear that with so many foreign policy goals at stake and the future proliferation of nuclear material to even less stable countries such as Syria or Saudi Arabia, that the U.S. must be involved,” Gottuso said.
Sophomore Justin Karp noted afterward that he enjoyed seeing a civilized discussion between the two sides.
“I’m happy that we can have a debate like this without too much personal stuff. Overall the event was pretty peaceful,” he said.