By Sara Marcus, Staff Writer
On December 12th in Belfer Hall, the YU College Republicans and the YU College Democrats participated in the third annual “Great Debate.” The debate, which was co-sponsored by The Commentator; The Observer; Turning Point USA; and the Conservative Student Union, drew about 80 people in attendance, not counting those watching the video livestream on The YU College Republican’s Facebook page. Moderated by YU Political Science Professor Matthew Incantalupo, each club hosted a representative to speak about a hot-topic political debate and present the party’s case on the issue.
Each participant spoke for five minutes representing their respective clubs on one of three topics: gun control, criminal justice reform, and immigration. First each party presented a five minute speech overview explaining the party’s take on the topic, then each representative was allowed a two minute rebuttal, and an optional conclusion with a rebuttal at the end. Throughout, Professor Incantalupo kept time, and reminded everyone to be respectful.
The event began with a debate on gun control, with Beatrice O’Campo representing the Republicans (R) and Doniel Weinreich representing the Democrats (D). Then Menachem Roffman (R) and Shayna Doretsky (D) argued about criminal justice reform, followed by Leah Feigen-Bookstaber (R) and Zachary Greenberg (D) sparring over immigration.
The presidents of both the College Democrats and College Republicans were both pleased by the large turnout and the civil atmosphere.
“It went really well,” wrote SCW Senior Rachel Zakharov, President of the College Republicans, adding that “the discourse was polite and cordial.” SCW Senior Rachel Schulman, Co-President of the College Democrats, agreed with Zakharov, commenting that “I think it went well. I was glad it stayed relatively civil..I think the debaters did a good job informing the audience.”
YC sophomore Yair Shavrick, a member of the YU College Republican’s executive board said, “It was an incredible experience where we got to hear two sides of various topics. I found it interesting how the two sides could make more conversation than debate. This was an extremely successful event and I look forward to having other events like this in the future.”
For the second year in a row, as written about in The Observer about last year’s debate, YU students were able to have passionate discourse on heated topics yet remain civil. Students remember the first year’s debate where students characterized the debate as too heated to handle. As such, heated audience debates that occurred the first year were cut out by deleting the question and answer section.
Syms Junior Shayna Doretsky, who debated for the Democrats, reflected, “[there] was a nice turnout and for the most part people were respectful. A question and answer session would have been nice, but we didn’t have one because of past behavior at previous debates. I think it went well because people came up to me after and told me that they learned things from what I said and that’s what I think debate is all about.”
To conclude the event, Menachem Uminer (YC ‘20) reflected that “it’s always important to converse with people on the other side of the aisle. When you do that, you take some of the hate out of politics. When you meet people face to face, it is much easier to be civil.”