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UMass Republican Club debates with students during Sunday night panel

(Michael Vadon/Flickr)

Members of the University of Massachusetts’s Republican Club held a panel on Sunday night to open a discussion on controversial topics and to discuss being affiliated with their political party on a liberal campus.

The panel consisted of club president Alex Gearty, a junior studying mathematics, upcoming treasurer John Maloney, a sports management junior and upcoming vice president Carly Bishop, a political science freshman.

The discussion started off through a stating of the club’s goal: to educate people on conservative and Republican ideologies. Panelists also stated that their own beliefs and opinions did not reflect everyone in the club’s.

Gearty said the club hasn’t invited any speakers or held events this semester because of the tense political climate on campus. The club did not want to have a chaotic situation like that of last year when Milo Yiannopoulos and others visited UMass in April, she said.

“One of the most important parts of politics…is being able to have a conversation between the two sides. You don’t want a big divide between the two groups because that’s not how progress happens. Progress happens when you have a conversation with someone and you come to a compromise and a solution that benefits both parties and moves us forward as a nation,” said Bishop, setting the tone for the conversation for the night.

Panelists then asked for questions and discussion topics from the audience, which led to several debates and conversations between the panelists and audience members.

Concerns of free speech, Donald Trump’s presidency, climate change, taxes and Neil Gorsuch were some of the more controversial subjects talked about.

One of the most intense conversations was about minimum wage and whether it should be increased.

Bishop talked about her personal experience and how she was laid off from her job the last time the minimum wage was increased because her employer could not afford to keep her.

“This increase of the minimum wage short term gain is not for the big picture. It reduces the incentives to get an education and to further yourself in some ways,” Bishop said.

She then asked, “If you can make enough money to be extremely comfortable in just a minimum wage job, then what’s the reason for going and pursuing a bachelor’s degree?”

Maloney then rebutted by stating he doesn’t believe the minimum wage reflects the value of the labor.

After an hour and a half of discussion, the panel ended and panelists expressed hope to plan more events, such as this, for next year.

Gearty said she wished more people had attended, but thought this discussion was very valuable and should occur more often to solve a tense political climate on campus.

“We want to have a lot of little events next year as opposed to a huge speaker because the speaker tends to…bring a huge audience, but it doesn’t necessarily portray all of our beliefs, whereas an event like this portrays many more than just one speaker,” said Gearty.

Bishop explained how their goal was “not to cause controversy, but create conversation” and hoped they can continue having conversations in the upcoming year.

Maloney wishes there will be more of these events in the future, he said, because they are productive and bring people together.

Abigail Charpentier can be reached at acharpentier@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @abigailcharp.

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