First IUP Collegiate Debate brings national issue talk to campus

The Penn presented the IUP Collegiate Debate in the HUB Delaware Room April 15. (Morgan Cunningham/ The Penn)

The College Democrats and the College Republicans went head-to-head Tuesday in a discussion about the Affordable Care Act, the extraction of natural gas in Pennsylvania and student-loan rates at the first Indiana University of Pennsylvania Collegiate Debate.

The debate, held in the Delaware Room of the Hadley Union Building, was hosted by IUP’s student newspaper The Penn.

The Penn’s Editor-in-Chief Dave Gershgorn (senior, journalism), who moderated the debate, flipped a coin to decide which party would give an opening statement first. The Democrats won the toss.

Gershgorn began the debate by raising the question of whether or not the Affordable Care Act meets the needs of college students.

The College Democrats began the allotted four minutes for opening statements by saying the act meets the needs of citizens nationwide by eliminating lifetime caps, sexism and discrimination from the insurance business.

“The Republicans are missing the point of Obamacare,” Dominique Jones (freshman, sociology) said.

The purpose of the act is to make health care more affordable and to take power away from insurance companies by reducing competition, he said.

“The point of the Affordable Care Act is to provide opportunities,” he said. “As a nation, our intention is to provide people with opportunities to help in their pursuit of happiness. It is our job.”

The College Republicans, however, argued that the foundation on which the act was build was not an honest one.

President Barack Obama made a statement telling Americans that if they liked their health care plan, they could keep it, Justin Gloor (senior, political science) said.

“That statement was rated as the ‘Lie of the Year,’” he said.

Four million people received letters saying that they could no longer keep their insurance, he said. Those 4 million people were left to fend for themselves.

Gershgorn introduced the topic of natural gas extraction in Pennsylvania and what limits or government regulations should be in place.

“I don’t think there’s a question on whether or not Pennsylvania should allow the extraction of natural gas,” said College Republicans President Kaleb Bennett (sophomore, finance and legal studies). “Natural gas is the cleanest and biggest job creator of all of the different types of energy out there right now.”

Jobs from the natural gas industry in Pennsylvania pay, on average, $62,000, nearly $25,000 more than the state average, Bennett said. By 2020, Marcellus Shale could support 220,000 Pennsylvania fracking jobs.

“This economic impact is huge to the state as well as the country and will push us forward to energy independence,” he said.

College Democrats representative Matt Albolino (freshman, political science) rebutted the College Republicans’ opening statement by saying natural gas extraction is not only dangerous to the citizens of Pennsylvania but to our environment as well.

The drilling of natural gas has been known to result in earthquakes, explosions and acid rain, he said. There have also been reports of livestock dying and children becoming ill after consuming water that has been contaminated as a result of drilling.

“Yes, it can create jobs,” Albolino said, “but is it really worth it to have all of these risks associated with it?”

No matter how much regulation is put into place, natural gas fracking will never be safe, he said.

The topic that sparked the most controversy between the parties was whether or not Congress should lower interest rates on student loans, the last of the three debate topics.

College Democrats President Jay Carter (senior, geography and regional planning) began by saying he was concerned about justice.

If car loans and mortgage loans are given out based on credit, he said, why aren’t student loans treated the same way?

Students pay for higher education in a number of ways. Adding on interest rates that continue to increase is not right, he said.

“I guess my question is a rhetorical one,” Carter said. “Do you have student loans? Would you like to spend the next 20 years paying off the interest rates on those loans? This is a very straightforward question that can easily be resolved.”

College Republicans representative Christopher Wetherson (junior, political science) said college students need to be held responsible for the money they take out.

In the real world, there are no loans with zero interest rates, he said. Lower interest rates would be great, but it is not a solution.

“I don’t think it teaches young Americans what it’s like to be an actual adult and not have everything handed to them,” Wetherson said.

As the two parties discussed interest rates on student loans, the issue of job creation came up, introducing a new topic of debate.

“We can’t talk about student loans without talking about job creation,” Wetherson said. “If we don’t have jobs after graduation, how are we going to pay off these student loans? I feel that the Democratic Party isn’t helping the job market get any better.”

Since Obama took office in 2008, Wetherson said, unemployment across the country has risen to 10 percent, with youth unemployment rising to almost 20 percent.

“Republicans, for a while,” Wetherson said, “have been job creators, whereas the democrats have been job killers.”

The College Democrats rebutted Wetherson’s statement with statistics of their own.

Since 1960 there have been more Republican presidents than Democratic presidents, said Colin Mortensen- Agnew (freshman, political science). With 68 million private sector jobs created, only 22 million of those were created by Republicans.

“Democrats create jobs,” he said. “It’s been proven.”

Although only two political clubs participated in the debate due to time constraints, the libertarian Young Americans for Liberty club attended the event.

YAL member Ian Todd (junior, economics) said the debate reflected a “typical national debate” in that only two parties were heard.

“I think our club offers something a little bit newer,” he said. “I think that people would be really interested in hearing what we have to say.”

YAL’s solutions to problems focus more on taking the government out of the picture and allowing people to break the habit of having politicians make their decisions for them, Todd said.

“Third parties in America are not well represented,” he said. “Open debate and getting new ideas into the debate is important and always has been important in our country. I think it would have helped a lot in this debate.”