OPINION: Want political peace? Let’s debate

College campuses are too politically polarized – universities need to follow USF’s lead and encourage debates. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/UNSPLASH

The “fascist” Republicans and “sexual groomer” Democrats rule the political theater, convincing their followers that the other side is malicious.

In this tense world of politics, debating helps people discover commonalities. This is why USF College Democrats President Tyler Tone and USF College Republicans Executive Director Ethan Vaubel partnered up to host a collaborative debate on Tuesday – welcoming all donkeys, elephants and independents.

Yet, this collaboration of different opinions is not a common occurrence on college campuses. A 2020 survey by NBC reported that almost half of American college sophomores would not room with someone who voted for a different political candidate.

Students don’t feel comfortable sharing their opinions at universities, as 64.5% said their campus political climate holds them back from stating their beliefs. Republicans and Libertarians were the most reluctant to share their views. 

In order to fight against the division, students need to engage in healthy debates with different opinions. Finding common ground with other people is important so unity and peace can be fostered during conflict

The two clubs first started a combined debate during the spring 2023 semester to help students find more common ground. Vaubel and Tone agreed that understanding the opposing opinion is important in an Oct. 28 joint interview with The Oracle.

Tone said people need “external pressure” from different opinions. Debating forces students to think critically about their opinions by reflecting and defending their own stances. By doing this, students strengthen their beliefs. 

When students engage in debating, it also helps create a better campus environment and “ideological vibrancy,” Tone said.

“Their learning is elevated to a different level because they can appreciate and understand and hear from someone from a different background, which may change their thinking,” Monica Inzer, vice president of enrollment at Hamilton College, said.

A university is where students come to engage in new beliefs. They should seek out and engage in collaborative debates like this. Otherwise, they risk missing out on the true academic experience that is currently clouded by politics.

A poll of 93 students conducted by The Oracle shows that USF mainly hosts left-leaning views. Of the respondents, 41.9% of students were Democrats, 32.3% not affiliated, 21.5% Republicans and 4.3% identified with a third party.

By engaging in debates, students with diverse opinions have the platform to be heard by the student body without being judged.

Many find debating unappealing due to its negative connotation. Some people and media outlets have lost faith in the power of political debates, calling them “fake” or a stage show for candidates to yell over each other.

But debates can be more than just a performance.

Vaubel said that their debate is more than arguing or yelling on a soapbox. It gives students a chance to comfortably share their views. 

“We pride ourselves on having a platform where people aren’t just cutting other people off,” Vaubel said. “You can just sit down and have fun. You don’t need to be in politics to engage.”

Following their example, students need to debate so peace can rule over division. A university is a place where different opinions can come together to give birth to new ideas. Debating especially allows people to join in understanding one another in the midst of differences. 

Students have a chance to bring peace through understanding – one debate at a time.