Karina Barriga Albring

Equinox Staff


Less than a month away from the 2012 presidential election, the countdown has begun. In order to raise consciousness towards the importance of voting, a debate discussing several issues in the Republican and Democratic platforms was held at Keene State College last week.

On Nov. 6, the United States will elect its president for the next four years. Considering the discussion on issues that directly affect college students such as education funding and birth control, KSC students’ involvement in the next elections seems crucial.

Meghan Graham, member of the student organization KSC for Obama, said, “It is really awesome to get people educated about voting, to get them to think about which side they most agree with and help them learn more about what choices they can make.”

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During the debate, each party had four representatives. Students Ryan Scrivano and Joanna Oko,  retired Professor Chuck Weed and Professor Jeff Halford represented the Democrat Party.

Students Monique Troiano and Graham Ayers and Professors Brian Kanouse and Jaime Landau stood for the Republican Party.

The participants’ discussion was separated into five sections, and after each the public was able to vote for the group it believed was more effective in presenting its case. The Democrat representatives won in the first four sections and the last one ended in a tie.

Regarding health care practices, the Republican Party representatives argued contraception should not be free because the federal government is not responsible for a woman’s choice of using.

They referred to President Obama’s health care as unconstitutional. The strategies Republicans suggest and plan to apply are counseling and adoption as options instead of abortion.

Democratic Party representatives referred to contraception as something much bigger than birth control. Democrat Representative Joanna Oko said, “It can be used to treat many illnesses women may suffer from…95 percent of American women have used some sort of birth control, so it is not an isolated thing.”

About voter ID laws, Republicans mentioned that having them prevents illegal immigrants from voting and protects “the integrity of the electoral process.”

They referred to IDs such as passports and birth certificates as totems of citizenship. Democrats said needing an ID to vote is giving college students another headache. “It is not about us not wanting to protect the integrity of voting, it’s us wanting to protect the people who are voting.”

When the discussion of equal rights for women and men began, both parties agreed that women have the same capacities as men. Nevertheless, the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA)  is not in the Republican platform this year.

The Republican representatives explained they don’t want this act to be related to issues such as abortion and sexual preferences. Democrats mentioned their party does not judge people because of their beliefs on certain topics. They say 90 percent of Americans support the ERA, so it deserves a seat in the federal law.

Regarding  violence against women, Democrats affirmed it should be fought whether a woman is an illegal immigrant or not. Republicans said this act implies that citizen funds are being used to provide services to illegal immigrants, that they are not against fighting violence, but rather against protecting illegal immigrants and homosexual groups.

About college funding, the Democrats said that even though they have been criticized for spending, some spendings are investments and cannot be cut. “It is necessary to spend on education in order to have a better situation in the future, so we cannot cut college funding,” Oko concluded.

For the debate closure, participants exposed what they learned of the parties they represented. Monique Troiano, who defended the Republican Party, said “Even though I do not agree with many Republican principles, now I understand some of their notions are well structured.”

The students had assigned positions because they needed to have equal representation from Republicans and Democrats on stage. According to Communication and Philosophy Instructor Brian Kanouse, they did not necessarily believe in the platforms that they were assigned, which meant that they had to do a lot of research, “The preparation was a very diligent one, of reading and thinking through one’s personal beliefs but also learning about what the other party believes.”

Oko said coming to the event was a “fun and easy way for students to get more informed about their society, their government.” For her, it is incredibly important to have this type of event in college.

According to Oko, students are starting to get more interested in the electoral process, nevertheless there are still many that don’t get involved.

Graham said he believes students’ involvement is about “50-50,” and that is not enough. “I feel very strongly that all students should vote, and if they don’t know very much about it, that they should educate themselves, and to figure which political party they would most agree with to go and vote… because voting is one of the most important things.”

Kanouse said,  “In any course you take in Keene State College, they are going to tell you that the decisions you make in your future really matter, and decisions you make right now also help design your future,” and voting is a major decision.

As Oko mentioned on stage, “Voting gives me the ability to have a voice in the nation that I live in.  I believe every student should vote.”

The event was sponsored by The KSC Debate Club, The American Democracy Project and the Campus Commission on the Status of Women.


Karina Barriga Albring can be contacted at kbarriga@keene-equinox.com


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