Political clubs partake in senate-moderated debate

By Devin Dely | 3/19/18 12:22am

Student Senate RGB 04 (1)
GVL/Hannah Zajac— Students participate in a debate about political events that are happening in the world, on Tuesday 13 Mar 2018.
by Hannah Zajac / The Lanthorn

Political views are a topic of discussion often avoided by many due to conflict. However, it is the job of political organizations and clubs to embrace these conversations head on and engage in civil discourse with one another. 

On Tuesday, March 13, three major political clubs at Grand Valley State University did just that. Members of the College Republicans, College Democrats and Lakers for Liberty gathered in the Kirkhof Center on GVSU’s Allendale Campus to discuss relevant and controversial issues. 

“The purpose of this debate was that with the polarization of the past year, we wanted to get an open dialogue going with students,” said Julian VanDaele, a member of GVSU student senate’s external relations committee who helped moderate the event. “An open-forum debate would allow people from different ideologies to come together, represent their views and just to be able to start a dialogue. I mean, we can’t make any progress unless we start talking about it.”

The discussion was centered on topics that have been highly debated during President Donald Trump’s first year in office, including health-care reform, gun control, immigration, foreign relations and the economy. Students were asked to share their opinions on the administration’s decisions regarding those issues, with moderators moving to a new topic approximately every 15 minutes and cutting speakers off at a hard two-minute time limit at the podium. 

“It’s hard to see the effect of such subjective things like this, but you can see people’s faces as other people speak, and you can almost see their expectations being met or not being met,” said Ian Arnold, a diversity affairs committee member and another moderator of the debate. “It’s exciting when someone comes up and people have already got the judgment on their face, and you really see that soften and their perspective change. 

"I think that’s really the best part, is that everyone comes in with a certain amount of different information and different perspective, and the more you can spread that around, I think we all are better for it in the long run.” 

Given the vastly different views held by Republicans, Democrats and Libertarians, Arnold said he was happy with the civil nature of the discussions that took place. 

“It could be said that I have some sort of obligation to promote an open dialogue since I’m on student senate,” he said. “I think universities are the best place historically for learning about as much as you can from as many people as you can. It’s a good platform for listening and speaking.” 

Walking into a room full of so many different viewpoints, one might expect a hostile, argumentative environment. But the members of GVSU’s various political clubs provided a different example, showing that it doesn’t always have to be that way. 

“I just want to say at the end of the day, we may not agree on everything, but we should all remember to be friends,” said Dorian Thompson, a member of the College Republicans. “We live in a country right now where it’s so polarized that people are tearing up their friendships and relationships over political issues, and that should not ever happen because disagreement is a hallmark of our democracy.” 

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