College democrats, republicans debate election issues at Hillel

This is a republication of an original article written by James B. Hale in the Diamondback on Friday, November 3, 2006.

College Democrats and College Republicans faced off in a debate yesterday, where hot-button issues such as stem-cell research, immigration, the war in Iraq and Israel dominated the discussion.

Despite both groups bearing “college” in their names, tuition hikes and state educational funding only got a few minutes. But those issues are far from the minds of many candidates nationwide, who are locked in fierce election battles over voters’ worries that don’t always include higher education. So the two groups’ representatives exchanged views on the national issues – and some international ones – before about 40 audience members.

The debate, held at the Hillel Center and organized by the Pro-Israel Terrapin Alliance, was the first and only debate between the two student groups, according to PITA Vice President of Public Affairs Jenn Cogan, and was organized with the election in mind.

On education, the College Democrats attacked Gov. Robert Ehrlich’s cut in state education funding, a move they said resulted in the university’s recent surge in tuition. College Democrats Vice President Tim Hiller said that “under Bob Ehrlich and [Lt. Gov.] Michael Steele, here at the University of Maryland tuition has gone up 45 percent,” and questioned how students know that Ehrlich will not cut funding again if elected.

College Republicans countered that Ehrlich and Steele came into office facing a huge deficit. “You can’t run a deficit in a state government,” College Republican junior Paul Freeman said. “You need to trim a little here and there, and they pretty much trimmed across the border.”

The two groups quickly digressed, however, jumping into a lengthy debate over U.S. support of Israel, a topic that has not been of much discussion in most national or statewide races. The College Republicans accused Democrats of blindly supporting the United Nations, saying that the U.N. has often voted against pro-Israeli actions, especially during the Hezbollah crisis.

The College Republicans also criticized the Democratic party’s complaints and urges for diplomacy, an idea the Republicans said was ineffective against hostile countries.

Democrats complained that diplomacy will be difficult because of President Bush’s foreign policy, and accused Bush of ruining the international perception of both America and Israel.

“Democrats are looking to help American credibility, they’re looking to help Israeli credibility in the world,” said College Democrats freshman Jonathan Sachs. Sachs also pointed out the Democratic party’s support of Israel under the leadership of Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.

The arguments mirrored those made nationally by politicians, including the attack of Bush by Democrats.

“It degenerated into name-calling,” said freshman letters and sciences major Ben Falk after the debate. Falk did say, however, that the debate was a success overall. “You don’t see many events like this,” he said.

About the Author

Jamie Hale is a reporter for the Diamondback.