College Republicans and Young Democrats square off in second annual debate


FHSU’s chapter of Pi Sigma Alpha, the national political science honor society, hosted its second annual debate between the College Republicans and the Young Democrats on Tuesday. 

Britton Haigh, Noah Erichsen and Alex Johnson represented the College Republicans while

Skylar Zimmerman, Madison Albers, Addison Mininger and Miriam Benavides represented the Young Democrats.

Gun violence, the governor’s race and the cost of higher education were some of the main focuses of the night.

College Republicans viewed gun violence and school shootings as a result of a mental health crisis, referencing the shooting in Uvalde. 

“The teenager who decided to grab the gun and go walk across the street to that school, suffered from many, many mental issues,” Johnson said.

Young Democrats argued that while mental health should be prioritized, age-restricting assault rifles would also decrease gun violence. Zimmerman said the Uvalde shooter bought an assault rifle the day after he turned 18.

“I think the cause of the phenomena of mass shooters in America is a lack of regulation and policy surrounding the topic,” Zimmerman said.

Haigh was unconvinced, saying that adding more restrictions would not solve the issue. 

“We can regulate, regulate, regulate all you want, but we’re still left with broken people,” Haigh said.

When discussing the upcoming governor’s race, Young Democrats said they supported Laura Kelly because of all she has done during the pandemic and what she continues to do to support schools and the economy. 

“She’s a smart politician, and in general, Laura Kelly has done an exemplary job as governor,” Benavides said. “I don’t know why we wouldn’t re-elect her.”

The College Republicans were more concerned about Laura Kelly’s strict COVID-19 policies.

“The reality is, Laura Kelly was one of the first to shut down schools and churches in the nation,” Haigh said.

Haigh further elaborated saying the shutdown of the state led to increased mental health issues. 

“I think that has led to a mental health crisis,” Haigh said. “I think it’s important to realize that locking down schools and churches was a big part of that.”

Tuition costs and student loan forgiveness was the most heavily debated topic of the night with back-and-forth lasting nearly 15 minutes.

College Republicans firmly believed that the government should not give handouts to students. 

“I strongly believe college and attending a university is not a right, it’s a privilege,” Johnson said. 

Young Democrats argued that while everyone shouldn’t get the most expensive, private education available, but college should be affordable. 

“You could work full-time making $7.25, the minimum wage set by the federal government, however, and still not afford the $20,000 average education in this nation,” Mininger said.

Erichsen said he did not want tax dollars going to pay for students who did not put in effort in high school. 

“We worked for our ACT scores, we worked to get those scholarships, but I will be paying these taxes to pay for someone else’s education,” 

Albers brought up that her family is just below the poverty line and even with her stellar academics and involvement in multiple organizations, she still barely affords Fort Hays State. 

“No matter how hard I work to get my ACTs or no matter how many clubs I joined, no matter how many volunteer hours I put into it, it doesn’t mean that I can still afford a college education,” Albers said.

Albers said it’s easy to make generalizations about those receiving aid, but everyone has their own story. 

“I’m not just taking your money for handouts,” Albers said. “I have a dream to become an immigration lawyer to help out my community and the struggles I can see. And to just simply put that down to a handout that I got from the government, I think is just a spit in my face.”

When the floor was opened to audience questions, one audience member asked each side what their plans were for keeping tuition low if institutions knew the government forgave loans.

The College Republicans said there would be no way to control those tuition increases.

“If the schools know your tuition is going to be paid for, nothing is stopping them from doing it,” Erichsen said. 

Mininger recommended transitioning into a more nationalized education system like those in Europe. 

“That program will be difficult to end up achieving, but a nationalized education system like we see in many other European countries, tends to lead to more stable education costs,” Mininger said.

Not only was this an event to promote civil discourse between opposing sides, but the groups also used this debate to build membership in their organizations. 

College Republicans meet every other Monday at 7 p.m. in Rarick Hall Room 153. 

“If you have the same ideals or values as your typical, republican or conservative, then this is the organization for you,” Johnson said. 

Young Democrats meet every other Wednesday at 5 p.m. in Rarick.

“Even if you’re not from our same political party, we’re very inclusive and we work best to help around campus,” Benavides said.

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