College Republicans and College Democrats Debate to Start PSU Votes Week
On Monday evening the Penn State College Republicans and Penn State College Democrats kicked off PSU Votes Week with a testy debate about constitutional interpretation.
PSU Votes Week is designed to promote political engagement by Penn State students through a series of public events and offering students convenient options to register to vote.
Jake Griggs, the chair of the UPUA governmental affairs committee, moderated the discussion between Allison Dombach, Aidan Mattis and Chile Menuga for the Republicans and Kelsey Denny, Jacob Klipstein and Lexy Pathickal for the Democrats.
With three debaters on each side and in-depth questions, College Democrats president Katierose Epstein said the organizations were emphasizing substance in their arguments.
“It allows for people to use examples in their responses, such as court cases, such as amendments,” she said. “It just makes the argument stronger, people in the audience, it allows them to learn and it’s just a more entertaining lecture.”
The College Republicans argued for originalism, the view that the Constitution should be interpreted in the context in which it was written. The College Democrats argued the Constitution is a living document, subject to changing interpretation to fit modern times.
The debaters went back and forth on constitutional restraints on the government, the role of the public in the judiciary, due process and several Supreme Court cases, particularly DC v. Heller and Obergefell v. Hodges.
After the event, College Republicans president Reagan McCarthy said she was happy with the turnout at the Flex Theater, which was over capacity with standing room only.
“I’m really happy with how it went, especially like I said before this packed house,” she said. “I love seeing a room full of students, you know College Dems, College Republicans, a lot of people I didn’t recognize which was great.”
Despite a night of contentious conversation, McCarthy and Epstein still agree to disagree on how Americans should read America’s governing document.
“The country is living,” Epstein said. “This is one of the most developed countries that has evolved more than pretty much any other country in close to 300 years. Our governing document needs to change.”
“But that is why we have the amendment process,” McCarthy said. “The living document is just a reason to change fundamental rights, especially with respect to the second amendment.”
On Thursday, the UPUA will host a voter registration event on the HUB lawn from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and the Graduate and Professional Student Association will host a panel on gerrymandering in 129B HUB at 6 p.m.
Tyler Olson is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism and political science. To contact him, email email@example.com.