With the 2016 presidential election only days away, the Maryland Discourse hosted a mock debate Nov. 3 to try to sway undecided Terps and give political groups a chance to show how they’d represent the candidates.
Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and Gary Johnson were represented by two students each, all of them members of Terps for Hillary, Terps for Trump, Students for Liberty and Young Americans for Liberty.
Joseph Chuzhin is a junior economics major and Russian studies minor, and holds a board member position on Maryland Discourse. For this debate, he posed as the moderator.
“My goal is to try to provide a fair and equal platform for all the different groups to speak on behalf of the candidates they’re supporting,” Chuzhin said. “A big component of tonight’s event is opening up the floor to students, so that they’ll have their questions answered.”
Audience members engaged in the debate with their laughs, gasps and booing over the back-and-forth feud among the mock candidates.
“Most of my friends would say that we’re pretty much on a certain side of the issue,” said sophomore Deanna Stephen, a general biology and English major. “To see other perspectives around campus is something that I wanted to be able to do.”
Maryland Discourse began in 2015, as a way of satisfying the desire for a non-partisan and politically neutral group at UMD. The group “seeks to create a more politically and socially aware engaged campus community,” Christian Knapp, a junior economics and politics major said.
“The country is incredibly divided right now,” said Knapp, who is also the vice president of events for Maryland Disclosure. “I hope that students are able, not to necessarily agree with the candidate they disagree with, but at least see the other side and be able to empathize with those they disagree with.”
According to junior government major Georgie Jones, president of Maryland Discourse, an events team created the mock debate questions, focusing mostly on topics that were discussed in brief during the real debates. Many questions in particular took college-related angles, such as graduating student concern about post-graduation employment.
“My partner and I went over some arguments and counter arguments before the debate,” said sophomore mechanical engineering major Chris Henderson, who was a representative for Gary Johnson. “Hopefully we change a few minds, or at least get people to consider opposing viewpoints.”
Having Gary Johnson’s perspective brought in a new angle to the table. According to Jones, Maryland Discourse had reached out to Terps for Hillary and Terps for Trump, before realizing that a “large group opting to look at the third party” was prevalent on campus.
“I think that especially playing a role on a college campus where there is that avenue for a third voice — and having not seen [Johnson] on the national stage as much — having this third party perspective at the mock debate gives those people a way for them to ask those questions,” Jones said.