By Brooke Schultz
Elm Staff Writer
Election results are in, and although some issues may seem insignificant to the daily life of college students, the votes and voices of students do count.
The Maryland Student Legislature, a nonpartisan political science club at Washington College, held the first debate of the school year on Saturday, Nov. 1 to promote the sharing of ideas between the College Republicans and Democrats.
The debate was moderated by sophomore Tori Venable, president of MSL, and covered national, state, and local politics.
Prior to the debate, Venable gave each side an outline of possible questions. She said, “I decided to go with what was really active right now in politics. For state issues [it was] things that were debated in the governor’s race, so things that Brown and Hogan had really been debating. For national, it was things that were happening right now, relevant even in Maryland.”
Kevin Lair, president of the College Republicans, said the panel prepared for the debate by “[acquiring] our data from well-established, independent sources rather than partisan organizations to ensure legitimacy and accuracy. We also looked at how each issue affects our personal lives, our communities, the state of Maryland, the United States, and the international community.”
On an international level, the panels discussed ISIS and what action the US should take in dealing with the threat. Freshman Joseph Swit, of the College Democrats, believed there should be precautionary intelligence operations to get a clear sense of the threat before it came to boots on the ground. Freshman Abbie Schultz of the College Republicans believed that ISIS is definitely a threat that needs to be dealt with promptly.
On a statewide level, the parties were asked about the legalization of marijuana and the Dream Act and how these would affect Maryland.
Both parties supported the further decriminalization of the drug. Lair cited Colorado and Washington as examples and said, “[Those states] have seen incredible revenue increase and a dramatic rise in tourism.”
Results from the Nov. 4 election tended to support the process of decriminalization and legalization, especially in Alaska, Oregon, and the D.C. where citizens chose to legalize the drug with different initiatives.
Currently, a heavily-debated topic in the US is immigration and is poised to be a huge focus of the next presidential election. The College Democrats and Republicans focused on The Dream Act and its effect on Maryland. This act allows undocumented students better access to state-funding for higher education. The question posed was whether the borders should be strengthened or if modifications should be made to attain citizenship.
The Democratic panel supported the Dream Act because it’s a way to take advantage of neighboring countries’ talents and hard work. Senior Ben Stern said, “One of the first steps to defending our borders and reforming our immigration system is to bring the people who want to [live in] this country the most and give them the opportunity to join this country’s political process as well as [contributing] to the economy.”
Next the panels discussed hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” in the Chesapeake Bay and the policies that each party believed should be imposed to protect the environment.
The College Republicans started off by emphasizing the need to produce energy in America rather than relying on unstable countries. Because of this, Lair said, “Until we develop cleaner alternatives that are affordable and realistic, it is our only way.”
Sophomore Rebecca Sachs of the College Democrats addressed what fracking is and said, “No one is being offered money to vacate the area and not only is [fracking] harmful to the environment, it’s harmful to the community surrounding the facility.”
Although fracking was not an initiative on the Maryland ballot, both gubernatorial candidates took a clear stance. Governor-elect Republican Larry Hogan said to the Capital News Service that, “States throughout the country have been developing their natural gas resources safely and efficiently for decades. I am concerned that there has been a knee-jerk reaction against any new energy production.”
The Chesapeake Bay is in WC’s backyard, which is why discussing fracking and voicing support or concern is vital for Maryland.
Many issues covered during the debate were relevant to Maryland from, the economy to marijuana to environmental issues. Both the WC Republicans and Democrats and MSL plan on holding more debates in the future. They offer a civil discussion among peers, which highlight similarities and differences in both parties while presenting evidence to back up their opinions. These debates are not only for the politically active; MSL always welcomes new members.
For more information on election results see page 3 in News.