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Mock debate takes on 2012 elections

While Hofstra University is preparing for its presidential debate next week, Stony Brook University students are having their own.

The Speech and Debate Society (SBUSDS), the MALIK Fraternity, Stony Brook College Democrats and the National Association for Advancement of Colored People hosted a mock presidential debate on Tuesday, Oct. 9, proving that the presidential debate doesn’t have to be brought to SBU for students to talk politics.

This was only the second time such a debate was held at SBU.

“If there was a referendum about any topic in society where public discourse on informing citizens was necessary to make a decision, SBUSDS would be there,” said Ramy Noaman, senior linguistics and psychology major and president of SBUSDS. “Anytime the spread of useful information is possible through public discourse, we want to be there to play a part.”

Ian Schwarz and Danny Awalt Jr. represented the Obama administration, and Kareem Ibrahem and Sarah Ben-Moussa spoke for the Republican platform. Wilbur Miller, SBUSDS’ club adviser, acted as a judge and moderator for the debate along with Philosophy Department Chair Eduardo Mendietta and the Center of News Literacy Director Dean Miller. They are also professors of history, philosophy and journalism, respectively.

With three judges and four participants on stage, the set-up looked strikingly similar to the actual presidential debates. However, all four participants’ party preference is Democrat.

Schwarz and Awalt were speakers from the university’s College Democrats, leaving Ibrahem and Ben-Moussa, contributions from SBUSDS, playing ‘devil’s advocate.’ The College Republicans were not a part of the event.

“There was a slight misunderstanding,” Saad Kaif, biology major and head of public relations at SBUSDS, said. Event planning is a long and complex process, he explained, and there will be times when miscommunication issues turn a project around.

“It was within that process that the [College Republicans] thought it’d be best to go their way,” Kaif said.

It was not a problem for Noaman who simply donated two speakers from his organization.

“We attempted to contact [the Republicans] but we weren’t able to reach their leadership until they felt it was too late to prepare for the debate,” he said. “But this type of discourse does not rest on the clubs

themselves. Discourse can take place by anyone that feels they can represent the ideals, even if they are not officially part of the organization on campus which caters to them.”

There was little name-calling on hot-button issues like the national deficit, the Israel-Iran conflict and Affordable Care Act. Instead, each side depended mainly on political rhetoric and facts gleaned from what Schwarz said was “a week of studying.”

Each side was given three minutes to frame its argument, followed by a five minute response from the opposing team before returning to the podium for a two minute defense.

The tone of the debate was derived from the tone of the current presidential campaign with Schwarz and Awalt portraying the Mitt Romney’s campaign as self-serving and ineffective.

“The Republicans want to cut PBS and NPR. PBS and NPR make up 0.01 and 0.0003 percent of the federal budget, respectively,” Awalt said regarding the national deficit. “Do you remember when PBS and NPR crashed the stock market? Do you remember when they wiped out half of all 401ks, took trillions in tax payer bailouts and then refused to pay taxes? Because I don’t remember that.”

Ibrahem and Ben-Moussa had their own complaints. “The first thing we would do upon getting into office is to repeal Obamacare. Obamacare is inherently ineffective,” Ben-Moussa said. “Since Obamacare has come into fruition, health care rates have actually gone up. So why should we implement the kind of program that allows the cost of health care to go up?”

Both platforms deviated wildly from the opposing position, a situation that reflects Romney’s struggle to establish himself as a candidate with a separate agenda from that of Obama.

There was one issue both platforms agreed on—the rising cost of college, and why it is neither the government’s fault nor its responsibility to shoulder it.

College is a pure cost, said Awalt, giving a rare voice to conservative fiscal policy. The government would not recover money from students who drop out. Countries that provide free college education can attribute their small populations and higher tax-bases as the reasons for their working models.

But it is Ibrahem’s momentary switch that was the most astonishing for the night. The Obama administration is not looking at the important issue, which is not how the people can afford to pay for college, but how can the government make it so? “We have these unchecked, raising tuition costs,” Ibrahem said.

Ibrahem’s solution to the problem would be regulation. “We need to proactively regulate how these institutions, how these private institutions – and a lot of these colleges that are primarily businesses—how they’re increasing their tuition, what their justifications are for these increases,” he said. Democratic approach or not, only then can the government help provide affordable education for its tapped out, debt ridden constituents.

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