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Bruin Republicans, Bruin Democrats face off at quarterly UCLA CrossFire debate

Sanjay Verma, a first-year computational and applied mathematics student from the Bruin Democrats (left), and Michelle Ohanian, policy director for Bruin Republicans and a fourth-year history student (right), participated in a nonpartisan debate hosted by the Bruin Political Union Thursday. (Tanmay Shankar/Assistant Photo editor)

By Bernard Mendez

Feb. 21, 2020 12:41 a.m.

Representatives from the Bruin Republicans and Bruin Democrats debated topical political issues at the quarterly UCLA CrossFire debate hosted by the Bruin Political Union.

Moderators of the event, which drew more than 100 students to De Neve Plaza, asked representatives about gun control, wealth inequality and US-Iran relations, drawing from the policies of Donald Trump’s presidency and those proposed by Democratic presidential candidates.

Each representative was given two minutes to answer a question. The opposing representative was then given one minute to respond. At the end of each topic, both sides were given 1 1/2 minutes to make closing remarks.

The debate drew a higher attendance than previous CrossFire events, said Navkaran Gurm, programming director for the Bruin Political Union and a second-year economics and public affairs student. He added he thinks the impending California Primary and Super Tuesday have increased students’ political awareness.

The debate started with questions about gun control.

The Bruin Democrats representative said proposed bans of assault-style weapons would be effective in reducing gun violence. However, the Bruin Republicans representative said banning assault-style weapons has not shown any correlation with a drop in gun deaths.

During the gun control portion of the debate, the Bruin Republicans and Bruin Democrats representatives repeatedly interrupted each other, drawing jeers from the crowd and prompting the moderators to step in.

Sara Wang, a first-year political science and public affairs student and Bruin Democrats representative, said she thinks the questions about gun control could have been more clear and added the Bruin Republicans representative could have been more respectful to the Bruin Democrats representative.

Gurm said conflict during the gun control debate led the Bruin Political Union to exchange the moderators, but added both sides were happy with the outcome of the debate.

Moderators also asked about US-Iran relations after Trump ordered the January assassination of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani.

There was no reason to kill Soleimani, argued Sanjay Verma, a first-year computational and applied mathematics student from the Bruin Democrats. He also said Congress should have been notified of the decision before it was made.

Verma added he thinks the killing facilitated anti-U.S. sentiment.

However, Michelle Ohanian, policy director for Bruin Republicans and a third-year history student, said Trump’s strong-mannered approach to dealing with Iran showed that the U.S. would not tolerate Iran’s violence in the Middle East.

The Bruin Republicans and Bruin Democrats also had conflicting opinions about the outcome of the debate. Ohanian said she thinks the Bruin Republicans won all three sections, but Wang said she believes each topic might have had a different winner.

The U.S. political system requires support from both parties to create lasting policy change, said Brandon Broukhim, chairman at the Bruin Political Union and a third-year history and public affairs student.

People shouldn’t let their disagreements stop them from discussing the important issues, and these events remind people that another side of the political conversation exists, he added.

“When we don’t see eye to eye, we must still be willing to have conversation,” he said. “We’re at a university, that’s the entire purpose here, and if we can’t do it at UCLA, we sure can’t do it in the United States.”

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Bernard Mendez | News editor
Mendez is the 2020-2021 News editor. He was previously a staff news reporter for the Science & Health beat and a developer for The Stack. He is also a third-year math student at UCLA.
Mendez is the 2020-2021 News editor. He was previously a staff news reporter for the Science & Health beat and a developer for The Stack. He is also a third-year math student at UCLA.
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