Decision 2012, a political forum that included a statement from SU President William Ruud, students debating and a Q&A with 89th District Democratic State House candidate Susan Spicka, occurred Thursday night in Memorial Auditorium.
The two students participating on stage in the event hosted by The Slate were Irma Zejcirovic, president of College Democrats, and Nick Chapa, vice president of College Republicans. The two began after Ruud’s remarks, which stressed the importance of voting.
“One piece of advice — vote,” Ruud said to an audience of mostly first-time voters. He also said voting is especially important for students and it is something they should do for the rest of their lives.
Following Ruud’s comments, Moderator Naomi Creason, city editor at The Sentinel, posed a series of questions to the debaters involving the topics of taxes, spending, jobs, Obamacare, Medicare and education funding.
Zejcirovic won the coin toss and the debaters began to state their stances and the debate was under way.
The debate began with the matters of taxing and spending. Zejcirovic endorsed the “Warren Buffett Rule” which would apply a minimum tax rate of 30 percent on individuals making more than $1 million per year. Chapa argued such a policy would negatively affect small business owners and harm employment rates.
Chapa said Obama has had four years to fix the economy and his policies have so far failed to do so. Zejcirovic cited the lack of cooperation with the president among Republicans in Congress as the reason for such a lack of progress.
On the topic of education, Chapa encouraged Romney’s platform of more choice of schools for students and funding going directly to students rather than to the state. Zejcirovic endorsed Obama’s initiative Race to the Top, his plan to invest more in education and his plan to cap student loan repayment at 10 percent of income. She also suggested that public universities like SU could be better funded in Pennsylvania if Marcellus Shale were taxed.
“The cost of public education can be reduced by voting out Gov. Corbett,” Zejcirovic said followed by the only round of applause of the debate.
The debate progressed to the topics of healthcare, Obamacare and Medicare. Zejcirovic blasted Romney’s plan to turn Medicare into a voucher system while Chapa argued Obamacare is a tax that will cost the middle class and businesses more than help them.
On the topic of job creation, Zejcirovic argued government creates jobs and adds incentives for businesses to hire while Chapa argued the government should stay out of the business of job creation and leave it to the private sector.
In their closing statements, the debaters summarized their parties’ pitches for election. Zejcirovic said voting Democrat represents a “fair playing field for all of us” and “moving forward, not backward.” Chapa argued that voting Republican is choosing “liberty over tyranny” and “limited government over limited freedom.”
Following the debate, Susan Spicka spoke about voting and education, and took questions from students in the audience. Her opponent State Rep. Rob Kauffman was not able to attend due to a scheduling conflict.
The questions touched on the topics of voter ID, casinos, horse racing, military funding, environmental stewardship, public lands, Rob Kauffman and the controversial Plan B vending machine at SU’s Etter Health Center.
SU student Krista Williams asked how to become more involved in the political process as a student and Spicka encouraged volunteering and engaging peers more.
Student Justin Rowles was very interested in Spicka’s input on private drilling and national parks and said the event helped his understanding of the issues.
Student Tyler Walker watched all the presidential debates, and said he possessed a good understanding of the issues going into Decision 2012, but was interested in hearing the input of his fellow students at the event.
“Getting people involved to vote early in their life is really super important to our whole community,” Spicka said. “Even if they don’t vote for me, getting students involved in the political process is important because if you vote once or twice you’re a lifelong voter so I think this is great.”
Zejcirovic said this kind of event shows students are involved and interested, which is encouraging when she perceives a lack of engagement among college students at times. Chapa reiterated his points from his closing statement and said young people need to be involved and hold politicians accountable.
While they had some disagreements throughout the evening, both Zejcirovic and Chapa agreed on the importance of voting.
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