Theory transforms into debate during class project

October 16, 2008 by Sarah Aranda NMSU Round Up

Trey Williams: Student Presidential Debate, October 16, 2008 (photo by Travis Dulany)

Trey Williams: Student Presidential Debate, October 16, 2008 (photo by Travis Dulany)

Students gathered in the Corbett Center Auditorium to watch a presidential debate Tuesday. Barack Obama and John McCain, however, were not the speakers.

Students in NMSU Professor Kenneth Hacker’s COMM 351 class participated in a student- speakers debate, representing Obama’s and McCain’s stances on the economy, foreign affairs and social issues such as health care.

“The idea for the debate emerged from class discussions where we discussed doing something that involves practice related to the theoretical principles that we learn,” Hacker said. “The presidential campaign and debates clearly fit this objective, not as just events to watch but to participate in.”

Hacker said his students organized the debate and worked in five teams: media, coordination, logistics, McCain campaign and Obama campaign.

Trey Williams, a senior majoring in communication studies, and Chris Anaya, an ASNMSU senator, represented the Democratic campaign with some counseling from Doña Ana County Commissioner Bill McCamley.

Shane Brown: Student Presidential Debate, October 16, 2008 (photo by Travis Dulany)

Shane Brown: Student Presidential Debate, October 16, 2008 (photo by Travis Dulany)

Representing the Republican side was freshman Shane Brown with the help of Skip Lind, a campaign volunteer and former neighbor of McCain.

All questions presented to the debaters were student- submitted.

Brown began by reading a speech given earlier that day by McCain in Virginia Beach, Va.

“Choose well, much is at stake,” Brown said. “The future president will need experience, courage and judgment to take affirmative action.”

Williams began his opening statement by explaining Obama’s idea of change.

“Obama wants to change policies because he believes we deserve better,” Williams said. “He wants to give America a standing in the world today. He will level with you and talk to you about issues we face.”

Questions followed opening statements regarding the economy and possible solutions for nuclear non-proliferation, to which the debaters provided answers easily found on the candidates’ Web sites.

The debate became heated as debaters discussed their candidates’ stances on education plans for college students.

“Obama has been focused on the needs of students from the very beginning,” Williams said. “He has been through the hardships of middle class America, and has a $4,000 grant plan.”

Brown rebutted with McCain’s plan of granting government funds through student loans.

“McCain has called on all governors to get student loans,” Brown said. “He will make sure we get student loans, even if through the government, to go to school.”

Williams said McCain was guilty of slandering Obama.

“He knows what the polls are saying and he doesn’t like it,” Williams said. “We need change with a purpose, not reform. Obama will do anything he can to help America.”

Brown closed by saying Obama has only had 123 days of “actual work” in the Senate.

“You couldn’t be the manager of a McDonald’s after 123 days of work there,” Brown said. “You couldn’t be a colonel in the military after 123 days of work. John McCain has experience. Obama doesn’t.”

Students applauded as the debate came to an end.

“A lot of preparation was done for this,” Williams said. “You have to level with and talk with people and gauge reactions. It takes a lot of research and time.”

Brown said he visited the McCain Web site in preparation for the debate.

“Emotions [are] a big part of [debating],” Brown said. “Especially when you see facial expressions in the crowd.”

Hacker thanked a number of individuals including his students, debate moderator Rebecca Verser of the communications studies department, department head Anne Hubbell, student debaters, university staff and the Tom Udall campaign for providing podiums for the debate.

“Right from the start, my students were excited about this project,” Hacker said. “They have shown great enthusiasm and dedication in putting it together.”

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