Students tackle serious issues in civil political debate
The Political Science Student Association hosted its most inclusive debate on Thursday, where students representing four political parties discussed topics of health care, immigration and the federal budget.
“The debate is a way to – especially in this time of political divide – get students to understand each side of the political platform,” said Paula Tran, PSSA vice president.
The PSSA, a bipartisan student organization on campus, invited students representing the Libertarian, Republican, Democrat and Green parties to debate common issues affecting society today.
“We wanted to have something that would resound with the students,” Tran said.
The parties had two minutes each to address the problem and provide a solution to health care, immigration and the federal budget.
On health care, both the Libertarian and Republican representatives argued for the promotion of a free market.
“We believe that people should have the choice to their own health care and the government shouldn’t say what to do with your health care,” said Brian May, Republican Student Union vice president.
The Green and Democratic party representatives advocated for a single-payer system that emphasized health care as a right.
“The problem with healthcare is that it’s not enough,” said Evan Gofelth, Democratic table representative.
“Healthcare is not a right; health care is a commodity,” said John Kounelis, a representative at the Republican table. “People are not entitled to the labor of medical professionals.”
In regards to immigration, the Libertarians argued for more fair, reasonable and accessible channels for individuals who migrate to the United States and highlighted that restrictions on certain individuals entering the country should be studied extensively.
“We as people should be able to travel freely as long as we are peaceful,” Libertarian representative Alisar Mustafa said. “As long as (immigrants) are peaceful they should be able to gain access into our country.”
“Immigration in the U.S. right now is inhumane,” said Green party representative Jacqueline Foley.
Democrats argued that lack of education was to blame for citizens’ issues with immigration while the Republican side said that securing U.S. borders and protecting its citizens first should be a priority.
“The United States is not simply a nation of immigrants, but a nation of immigrants that became citizens,” Kounelis said. “It is time we start focusing on the hard working people that allow our nation to flourish, rather than trying to help out as many people in need as possible.”
On the federal budget, Republican representatives argued for cuts the and giving states more power while the Libertarians argued for substantial reduction of government size and an end to taxation in general.
“All efforts by the government to redistribute wealth or to control or manage trade are an improper use in a free society,” said Matthew Martinez, Libertarian. “Taxes are too high and the U.S. is still in a lot of debt.”
Green Party representatives argued the defense budget needs to be reappropriated to programs for social welfare and general infrastructure. Democrats advocated for reducing spending on foreign intervention and war.
Joel Kassiola, a political science professor and debate moderator, said the conversations sparked from the debate highlight the campus diversity.
“I think they’re important because they give the students an opportunity to express their personal views about very important issues, which sometimes is hard to do in the class format,” Kassiola said.
Martinez said events like the debate provide a place for students to meet other students with different ideologies.
“At SF State there’s a lot of liberal people,” Martinez said. “Maybe you want to hear from a different platform, you know?”
Kounelis said he was glad to participate in the event, despite feeling that most people did not agree with his political views.
“I’m glad we the debate and had the turnout we did because people at this school are rarely exposed to people different political views than their own,” Kounelis said.
Kassiola said that though much of current political rhetoric has “become poisoned with ad hominem comments,” he was glad to see little of such rhetoric during the debate.
“Tonight, we saw an example of the way debates should run and our larger political system can learn a lot from what happened here tonight,” Kassiola said.