College Democrats and Republicans debate free speech, climate change and income inequality

Students debating on speech, climate change and income inequality

College Democrats and Republicans gathered at Maxwell Auditorium for a politically-driven discussion.
Published: March 22, 2019

On Thursday night, SU student Democrats and Republicans hosted their 2019 political debate discussing climate change, income inequality and free speech.

Attendees thanked each other for listening at the civil debate. Harold Hubbard, a senior debating for the Republicans, said he hoped the two parties could come together and agree on some issues.

“We are not beholden to the GOP, and I hope that they are not beholden to the DNC,” he said.

The first topic of the evening was income inequality. Hubbard reiterated that income inequality exists, and that the income gap between workers and executives has expanded greatly since the 20th century. The College of Arts and Sciences student said that people live in a particularly strange time now, as technology is advancing at a rapid rate and schools have to catch up.

Hubbard proposed education reform is the key to fixing income inequality. He also suggested that having technology, arts and language courses introduced earlier in school is necessary to meet the needs of the economy. 

Steven Kemp, a college sophomore representing the Democrats, agreed with Hubbard’s stance on education, but he said that wealth reform is needed to solve the problem. Kemp argued the federal government has fought unions for decades to help the rich more than the worker and recommended that revitalizing unions and raising the minimum wage can lead the country towards better income equality. 

“Decades of bad policy cannot be undone by one simple, swift action,” he said. “But this is a start.”

As the debate got more heated, students discussed their stances on the gender pay gap and wage discrimination for people of color.

Kemp argued that child care expenses and maternal leave should be subsidized by the government, as women and women of color often pay out-of-pocket to care for their families.

“They’re having to take less and make more,” Kemp said.

A female student added that many women choose not to work because child care would cost more than they make from their jobs, and staying home was less expensive.

Hubbard, a student debating for the Republicans, rebutted and said statistics on gender wage disparity are misleading. He said women actually make more than men in some areas and remained his stance on prioritizing education reform to help people rise out of poverty.

Though the political parties had some disagreements, both groups concurred that there are many social factors that affect income inequality. Minchailou Mohammed Kanoute, a student speaking for the Republicans, said discrimination on racial lines is real, and that education could help remedy income inequality on those lines.

“You need to focus on education particularly for minority students because you need to give minority students the chance to pull themselves out of poverty,” Kanoute said.

The college junior said schools should be about supporting students of color through proper funding and better representation. 

“You need to plant a seed today to grow a tree for the future,” he said.

 

SU sophomore and Democrat Steven Kemp agreed with Kanoute. He reminded that social issues are very much interrelated, and that poverty, access to transportation and health care are among the many things that affect people’s education.

“Being poor should not be a death sentence,” he said.

The students eventually shifted their debate focus on free speech. Both Democratic and Republican groups acknowledged that recent news regarding Trump’s presidency, media breaching and technology gatekeeping are some issues challenging the First Amendment today.

Ryan Golden, a student Democrat running for president of the Student Association, said President Donald Trump’s rhetoric against immigrants is close to violating the First Amendment. Golden criticized Milo Yiannopoulos, Judge Jeanine Pirro and other conservative speakers on Fox News. 

Brendan Carducci, a student Republican, agreed that it is important to diminish hate speech in the United States, but he also challenged Golden’s argument and reminded that hate speech is protected by the First Amendment.

“While it is deplorable, it certainly is allowed,” he said. 

Another Republican participant, Andrew Wilgocki, said that a definition of hate speech is dependent on subjectivity and the person who makes the determination of hate speech.

“It all comes down to when somebody comes into power and says what you’re saying is hate speech,” he said.

Wilgocki added that companies like Google have affect conversation and public discourse, and that the biases in their algorithms should be assessed. He argued that Google has been biased against conservatives. Wilgocki believed that speech that breaches peace should not be supported. 

The third and final debate of the night was on climate change.

Rody Conway, debating on the Republican side, proposed the Environmental Protection Agency should be reformed. He suggested said the government should invest in new technologies, and that those scientists should lead their own projects and not be beholden to tight government oversight.

Tighe Gugerty of the College Democrats agreed. He said that rolling back legislation and saving money would be “a drop in the bucket” in comparison to what will be lost if nothing is done in response to climate change. He added that large corporations and oil companies are major contributors to pollution.

Cesar Gray, another Republican speaker, rebutted that Tesla’s vehicles, invented by Elon Musk, were not created by bureaucrats — but that they have the chance to end car pollution. He also said Henry Ford inventing the vehicle helped alleviate pollution and waste in the streets formerly populated by horses and buggies.

Gugerty said Musk’s Teslas were created for profit, not for the benefit of the planet. He also argued that cars were one of the worst polluters and creators of greenhouse gases. Gugerty’s mother, Lisa Olson Gugerty — a professor of public health — asked how cars cleaned cities.

Gray said that private inventions have benefited impoverished people.

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is a staff producer for The NewsHouse.