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The Rumble in Rubin: YU Student Presidential Debate Prepares Students for Upcoming Election

Advertised as the “Showdown of the Year,” last Monday night’s student debate in the Rubin Shul did not disappoint. Showcasing the best of Yeshiva University’s Republican and Democrat clubs, the debaters discussed contemporary issues, serving as a preview for the actual Presidential candidates that squared off later in the evening. Highlighted by passionate arguments and realistic representations of the parties involved, the debate helped fellow students more accurately grasp the issues at hand. One student, sophomore Daniel Blickstein (Syms ‘15), stated: “The debate was more informative than a typical Obama-Romney debate. With the issues described by my peers, right here at YU, I better understand what exactly this election is all about.”

The debate, moderated by political science professor Utku Sezgin, was set up in similar style to the ones that headline President Obama and Governor Romney. Before the sparks began to fly, Professor Sezgin went through the agenda succinctly, warning both sides to “be very nice to each other.”

Administrative issues out of the way, the debate began with opening statements, followed by a series of questions, answers, and rebuttals. From the beginning, the Republican side, the trio of Noach Goldstein, Akiva Berger, and Joseph Hasten, criticized the incumbent Democrats for “expanding government” at a time when America needs to “empower individuals.”  The quartet of Democrats, Joshua Skootsky, David Nagar, Binyamin Weinreich, and Bobbijo Leah Powers, retorted that “after the worst economic downturn in seventy years,” America had to retain trust in the Democratic Party to continue digging the country out of the “mess caused by Republicans in the first place.”

As the debate continued, economic issues such as unemployment, taxation, healthcare, and the financial deficit were discussed and analyzed by both parties. Arel Levkovich (YC ‘15), sophomore and registered Republican, was impressed with the variety of issues on display at the debate. He explained that, “both sides presented interesting opinions for many problems going on in the United States today. I especially appreciated the Republicans’ directness in arguing for necessary change.”

Both parties’ speeches exhibited distinctive flair, tapping into the Jewish crowd. Discussing the reasons for the rise in food stamps, Powers declared, “People pashut (simply) don’t have money to buy food.” For the Republicans, Mr. Berger passed judgment on the Democratic tendency to exceed the budget: “Shkoyach. We cannot fix the deficit by taxing. We must cut spending.”

Kept in check by senior Holly Hampton (SCW ‘13), who presided over the ever-present chronometer, both sides presented their platforms “in an entertaining and informative fashion,” according to sophomore Jenny Wiseman (SCW ‘15). “I enjoyed the debate. Each side prepared well and countered claims from the opponents with ease.” Nagar, who heads the Democrat club, believes that his side did prepare more. “We brought notes… actual quotes and reports, while the Republicans did not seem to have any research.” Still, he maintained that the “point of the debate was not for one side to win” and also added that he “enjoyed it a lot.”

After a final discussion addressing foreign security and closing statements that allowed both sides to sum up their views, audience members were then permitted to pose questions. Post-debate, Professor Sezgin said that, “the debate terrifically blended civic education and civic participation.” Perhaps this was best exemplified moments after the debate ended, as debaters and attendees streamed from the Rubin Shul to the lobby to tune into the Presidential debate.