Union University and Lane College students came together for a political debate panel on Lane’s campus Monday night.
Panelists from Union included Josiah McGee, sophomore political science major; Matthew Grove, junior political science major; Byron Elam, senior history major; and Michayla Kramer, senior political science major. Panelists from Lane included LeQuan Berry, N’Dezha Robinson, Brandon Nathan and Braylin Laster.
Although Union, a predominately white Southern Baptist university, and Lane, a historically black Methodist Episcopal college, are both Christian institutions and only seven miles apart, there has been a lack of collaboration and connection between the two campuses since Union moved from downtown to its present campus. In recent years, the relationship between Union and Lane has begun to grow again under the leadership of Union’s president, Samuel W. “Dub” Oliver, and Lane’s president, Logan Hampton. Now, Union and Lane are taking steps toward reconciliation with events such as Monday night’s political discussion.
Panelists answered and discussed six hot-topic questions about the presidential candidates and their policies.
Moderator Breanna Lumpkin began the debate by giving the house rules: each college would have 12 minutes to answer each question, three minutes per person.
Lumpkin first asked the panelists if they agreed with Donald Trump’s plan to keep immigrants out of the United States. All of the panelists agreed that Trump’s plan to build a wall and force Mexico to pay for it is unrealistic and is not the solution to illegal immigration. Everyone also agreed that Trump’s policies were discriminatory and that he has overgeneralized based upon the actions of a few. Some added that America is a land of immigrants and is supposed to be a land of open opportunities.
The proceeding questions were more controversial. Lumpkin then asked if the panelists agreed with Hillary Clinton’s plan to perform comprehensive background checks and close loopholes that allow guns to fall into the wrong hands. While all agreed with more comprehensive background checks, the Lane panelists agreed with more limitations on gun ownership. The Union panelists disagreed, pointing out that there are different purposes and uses of weapons, that many times illegal guns are accessed, and that only a few irresponsible gun owners make it to the news. Grove, Elam and Kramer said that the gun debate is a much deeper issue that needs a deeper discussion instead of policy.
Lumpkin next asked about the panelists’ views on LGBT rights.
Elam and Robinson were in favor of LGBT rights, while Grove, McGee, Kramer and Nathan disagreed and said that there was a difference between accepting someone’s choices and actively affirming those choices.
Robinson compared LGBT rights to African-American rights and said that infringing on others’ rights is contradictory, because African Americans haven’t always had that right. While Elam said that it is important to remove theology from the conversation, Nathan said that one cannot remove theology from the issue because marriage is ordained by God and certain people cannot be expected to accept something they don’t practice or honor.
The panel also discussed whether reopening of Clinton’s investigation affected Americans’ choice of vote as well as the money spent by the Trump and Clinton foundation and whether educational or military funding should be more important.
Adrianna Wells, an audience member from Lane, appreciated the panel discussion.
“I felt like it was a great opportunity to hear from another side, actually being Union, [which is] not HBCU [Historically Black Christian University], and to see how others feel because they are more diverse than Lane College,” Wells said. “It was interesting to see how they felt about the campaign and the candidates that are running. I’m excited to see them continue to work together.”
Jon Hall, sophomore French and applied linguistics double major at Union, echoed Wells’ sentiments.
“I think it was really beneficial to have the two schools come together and have kind of the different campus cultures and fields of thought expressed,” Hall said. “I hope that this signifies increased cooperation and increased bond between the two schools in Jackson.”