By Alexa Limbach
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
College Democrats and Republicans squared off against each other in a series of free-flowing debates at Towson University Thursday that touched on everything from federal tax policy and education to the First Amendment and gun control.
An estimated 75 Towson students turned out for the third annual Rumble at TU Debate.
The Liberal Arts Building lecture hall where the debate took place filled quickly before the 7 p.m. start time, forcing some students to stand in the back of the room. Many Republican spectators arrived with their red “Make America Great Again” hats on.
The debates, which were moderated by Dr. Michael Korzi, one of the university’s political science professors, featured 12 debaters.
Each team was given the opportunity to get its point across through three rounds, each round with a designated topic. The topics of the night included U.S. Constitutional interpretation, education and guns.
Four debaters, two from each team, went head to head each round answering three predetermined questions pertaining to the round’s topic.
The teams were given five possible questions to prepare for within each topic, but only three were chosen by Korzi at the time of the debate.
Matthew Schwartzman, the president of Towson Republicans, and his teammate Tyler Williams took on the first round to discuss Constitutional interpretation against the Ryan Kirby, the president of the Towson Democrats, and his teammate Connor McNairn.
Democrats argued that the Constitution is a living document open to interpretation while Republicans took the side of originalism, or the notion that the courts should view the country’s founding document as its original writers intended.
Education was the second topic tackled by Republicans Garrick Ross and Matt Pipkin and Democrats Dallas Matthews and Sarah Rozmiarek.
Questions concerning the Common Core, increased taxing on the rich to lower interest rates for student loans, and Title IX were discussed by both parties in this round.
“We do not support the Common Core,” Pipken said. “It’s a broken record and has made no progress. It’s failed us and we need to take a more serious approach to education.”
The Democrats took a different approach.
“We support the Common Core, but in the means of not having any educational standards that leave kids behind,” Rozmiarek said. “We need to keep the basic framework of the Common Core but focus on the individual improvement nationally.”
Student Democrats said during the debate that they supported taxing the rich, but only those who make $1 million or more each year, in order to lower interest rates on student loans. The Republican student argued that taxing the rich would not help anyone pay off their student loan debt.
The two sides also argued over the Trump administration’s decision last September to rescind Obama-era guidance on how colleges should handle sexual assaults under the Title IX federal law.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said at the time that her department was concerned the previous guidance denied proper due process to the accused.
“People are scared to report sexual assault because of this,” Matthews said in disagreement to DeVos.
Both teams agreed on the severity of sexual assault on college campuses, but disagreed on the Title IX’s due process standpoint.
“Sexual assault is a serious problem on college campuses, we’re not denying that,” Pipken said. “But we’re getting rid of the due process for kids who deserve it.”
“We don’t want to influence a guilty-until-proven-innocent culture,” Ross said.
The third and final round was the most heated as Republicans and Democrats disagreed over gun control.
Democrats Noah Fleming and Justin Walker argued for more restrictions on purchasing guns and against individuals being able to purchase bump stocks, an attachment that enables a semiautomatic rifle to fire faster. Republicans Nevah Hartenstine and Brock Dixon argued the opposite view.
“People are going to the mall, the movies, and are leaving in body bags because someone capable of evil was allowed to purchase a firearm too easily,” Walker said.
The Democrats argued the process of getting approved to purchase guns is too easy and is the reason for the increased amount of mass shootings.
“Issues aren’t the guns themselves,” Dixon countered. “We need to look at mental health problems and the failure of our justice system on inner city violence instead. Not guns.”
Walker rebutted Dixon’s statement, calling mental health a “scapegoat to disregard gun restriction problems.”
“There is just no situation where you need a gun that shoots 100 bullets a minute,” Walker said, speaking against individuals having the right to purchase bump stocks.
The event was co-sponsored by Towson’s Office of Civil Engagement and Social Responsibility.
“We didn’t expect to have this many people come out and support us, but it’s because of this that we’ll be able to have more debates like this,” Schwartzman said.
Those interested in joining the College Democrats or Republicans are encouraged to attend one of their meetings. The College Republicans meet every Tuesday night from 7 to 8 p.m. in Smith Hall and the College Democrats meet every Wednesday night from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in the Liberal Arts Building.