With five days left before the Virginia General Assembly election, College Republicans and Young Democrats of the College of William and Mary drew battle lines during a campus debate Thursday.
The two political organizations engaged in a civil debate on topics ranging from fiscal policy to gun possession rights, moderated by Chancellor Professor of Government Clay Clemens ‘80.
The night began with issues of pension reform.
“There is a distinct difference between a 401k . . . and a pension. It is possible to have a mixture of both worlds,” Republican Alex Kocher ’12 said. “We cannot afford the current pension system, but we can afford to continue to pay our public workers a certain amount under a pension plan while also asking them to also provide a little bit more towards their own retirement.”
Democrats opposed this proposition, arguing that such a position puts a greater burden on the individual.
When the issues turned to higher education, Secretary of Student Rights Zann Isacson ‘13 outlined the Democratic stance.
“When you look at Democrats’ position on higher education, it is focused on making plans that empower those who struggle and cannot pay for higher education,” Isacson said.
Republicans pushed back with the financial burdens of higher education costs.
“[Higher education] costs have been predominantly placed on out-of-state students . . . at some point this is going to be untenable,” Alex Kocher ’12 said.
The issue of gun rights was addressed at both campus and nationwide levels. The College recently revised its gun control policy to patch all existing holes, so that now only authorized personnel can carry guns on campus.
“Our background checks have stopped millions of people with mental issues or other problems from having access to these weapons,” Democrat Elise Orlick ‘15 said. “If we allow more guns on campus, there will be an increase in violence.”
The GOP team countered the notion that guns should be prohibited on campuses by state law, calling instead for weapon possession to remain an “individual institution policy.”
Policy aimed at lowering the 9 percent current national unemployment rate, as well as the 6.5 percent rate in Virginia, provided another source of contention.
The Democrats emphasized the need for greater clean energy in the state as a method of creating jobs.
“It is our responsibility as a great power to protect the environment in any way,” Isacson said.
Republican Andrew Follet ‘13 cited data which compared the higher cost of energy produced from sustainable resources to energy from non-renewable resources. He also detailed the higher cost of building and operating sustainable power generation facilities, as opposed to more traditional methods of energy production.
When Clemens shifted the debate to illegal immigration, Republicans and Democrats spoke about different aspects of the issue.
“I think there is a huge false perception that [illegal immigrants] are criminals within our country, that these are the ones responsible for our drug violence, and for our gang violence. But in reality, a lot of illegal immigrants are those who were taken here as children, who have grown up here, and who you really cannot distinguish from an ‘American,’” Isacson said.
“I think both parties can agree that illegal immigration plays a major part in our economy,” Kocher said. “Our agricultural industry would not survive without the immigrants that come to America on a yearly basis.”
He later went on to advocate for an easier method by which immigrants could work temporarily, before returning home to their families with their earnings.