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Campus Political Debates provide experience and spark conversations

Oklahoma Christian University’s Adams Recital Hall hosted future lawyers, peacemakers and lobbyists, as part of the Campus Political Debates held every semester. Thursday evening, students took the stage and debated controversial subjects in order to gain experience and build their resumes.

Pi Sigma Alpha, the political science honors society at Oklahoma Christian, organized the debates. President Cody Milner and Vice President Haylye Plaster chose the topics and the students who participated. The organization picked topics based on recent events, which caused discussion and educated students on both sides. The debaters were political science majors or minors. Pi Sigma Alpha’s Sponsor James Crowder, a political science adjunct professor, said he took a hands-off approach to the debates.

“The students are good students who are capable of organizing and putting on the debates,” Crowder said. “The debates allow the honor society students to gain valuable experience by organizing the event and even debating. Many students are debating sides of an argument which they do not necessarily believe in–I could not do that. I could not argue something I am not passionate about, so it is great that they are learning this now.”

Two students, who both said they aspire to attend law school after graduation, participated in the debate on Thursday. Turner Smith and Ruger Stocking debated the removal of Confederate monuments and while they agreed on the historical significance, they disagreed on the reasons for the monuments’ removal.

Smith said he has known since high school he wanted to take an educational track which would lead him to law school. Though he was not on the debate team in high school, Smith said the debates helped him develop fundamental skills, which will be important to his career.

Although many students debated sides with which they did not agree, Smith said he had the opportunity to bring his passion to the debate.

“Because I am competitive—this was a subject I am passionate about and genuinely did agree with—it forced me to have more emotion in the argument,” Smith said. “It was still driven by research. I did not have to fake it, and I was able to use that drive and the relevancy of my argument.”

In October, Boy Scouts of America announced they would accept girls into the Boy Scouts program. Sophomores Abigail Kent and Justin McLeckie debated whether this should be allowed or not. Kent argued the Boy Scouts have already made large leaps by including transgender and gender individuals, and the next logical step would be to include girls. McLeckie said the decision to add girls was to boost numbers when the girl scouts already exist. The debate sparked conversation throughout the audience and a multitude of questions which the mediator, Brian Simmons, had to cut short due to time.

Senior Bailey Simmons and sophomore Luana Miranda debated healthcare as a human right, which raised the question: “What is a true human right?” The audience challenged Simmons on her thoughts.

“Can you explain how universal healthcare in U.S. would be different than those that are failing in Brazil and Canada?” a member of the audience said.

“The U.S. is the wealthiest country,” Bailey said. “If we took in all of our assets, I am sure we would be able to cover it and it would succeed.”

Plaster and sophomore David Richardson discussed the 800,000 individuals enrolled in the Deferred Act for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which the Trump administration ended this year. Plaster said the DACA program enabled young people to pursue passions and dreams and become full-fledged contributors to society. Richardson said DACA covers up the fact many immigrants have broken the law.

Junior Gabriella Vasquez said although her initial interest in the debates was the Kudos and extra credit, upon learning about the topics, her interests changed.

“I think it is interesting to see different points of view on these topics, not just social media and large political figures,” Vasquez said. “I took a special interest in the DACA topic because of my culture. I am a legal citizen, Mexican-American. I don’t think I personally know anyone who is in the DACA program, but I do know friends and family who came to America with their parents. They are now enrolled in college and trying to live the American dream.”

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