SOVAC Campus Political Forum Takes Several Heated Turns Among Student Organizations

UCSD College Republicans representative Michael Capuano takes the mic at the SOVAC forum on Dec. 5, 2017.

Student political groups argued, sniped, and flaunted to a riled audience of around 300 people during a forum held on Dec. 5 in Price Center Theater.

The event, held by the Student Organized Voter Access Committee (SOVAC) and moderated by SOVAC Executive Director Hunter Miranda and Operations Coordinator Pace Hartmann, was meant to introduce the UC San Diego student body to campus political organizations and expose them to some of today’s pressing issues.

Five groups—Young Americans for Liberty, UCSD Left, College Democrats at UCSD, College Republicans at UCSD, and newcomer UCSD Centrists—debated four issues: the national debt, health care access, student loan debt, and U.S. immigration policy, as well as addressed four audience concerns: climate change, net neutrality, the boundary between free speech and hate speech, and government subsidization of agriculture.

Young Americans for Liberty, represented by Sean McGinty and Jonah Naoum, argued for a  libertarian-oriented platform. They considered reducing the national debt “the highest priority” and concluded that the key to reducing the student loan burden was through lowering interest rates. On the subject of university subsidies, McGinty argued that they should be awarded only to universities which produce “graduates most suited to positively impact the economy.” In a dig against UCSD’s recent resolution to advance to Division I, McGinty argued, “Students shouldn’t have to pay for sports programs that don’t enhance their earning power upon leaving school.”

UCSD Left, which is not a registered campus organization, was represented by Ian Raz and Luca Vallino. The two called for the usurpation of American capitalism and railed against the mainstream American political parties that uphold it. Vallino claimed the debate on immigration was effectively irrelevant given the power of “the parasitic capitalist class” over everyone else. Raz and Vallino also did not believe that net neutrality’s absence would be a setback, citing popular efforts in Russia and China to circumvent censorship.

“When we live in a world based on profit, you cannot make caring for people profitable,” Raz said on  health care, referencing Shane Patrick Boyle, whose inability to raise $50 on GoFundMe for insulin resulted in his death in March.

College Democrats at UCSD, represented by Eden Allegretti and Jacob Faust, defended the Obama-era increase on defense spending as a symbol of “compromise and cooperation” and argued the recent tax plan is proof of the Republican Party’s disregard for fiscal conservatism. Regarding the student loan crisis, they offered a re-emphasis on Pell Grant funding to reduce the need for loans. On free speech, Allegretti argued, “Speech should follow UCSD policies of inclusivity and acceptance…freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences,” referencing The Triton’s story on the recent defacement of a CSE 134B study guide with racial slurs.

College Republicans at UCSD, represented by Michael Capuano and Travis Gilbert, defended the recent tax cuts’ projected deficit inflation by calling for spending cuts, particularly on programs like Social Security and the Affordable Care Act. They also noted that they consider healthcare, higher education, and Internet access a service rather than a right. The College Republicans posited that student financial troubles were the result of inadequate high school education and the pursuit of “useless” degrees like gender studies and ethnic studies. During his argument, Capuano pulled out and fanned several U.S. dollar bills.

“Learn about college before you go. Don’t take a bullshit major. It’s that simple,” Capuano said when addressing student loans.

UCSD Centrists, which is also not a registered campus organization, was represented by “Kevin Bologne” and Kenneth Schrupp. The students claimed to value “pragmatism over ideology” and “will choose to do what’s best for the country—what actually works.” They supported the expansion of Medicaid and raising the retirement age. Schrupp was against Donald Trump’s proposed border wall in favor of advanced detection technology, while Bologne supported its construction. They were cognizant of the economic activity that undocumented immigrant populations have brought to the San Diego area.

Tense exchanges and inflammatory commentary punctuated the arguments and counterarguments.

The debate on immigration was the most contentious. College Democrats representative Allegretti challenged the College Republicans to justify the deportation of DREAMers and other undocumented immigrants who, as the Republicans had claimed themselves, “know no other country.” College Republicans representative Capuano responded, “Because, by definition, if they were born here, they would have citizenship,” and proceeded to blame the DREAMers’ “selfish” parents for their plight.

Capuano went further, saying: “It is irresponsible to say that the U.S. government should take charge for a group of people who were subjected by their uncaring, illegal parents to a life of uncertainty, simply because they’re present within our borders. If they’re so talented, with their three percent college graduation rate, then they should be able to leave and, with their English language skills, immigrate legally. It’s not that hard.”

Pajama-wearing representative “Kevin Bologne” made a range of outlandish claims: He derided Republicans as “Neanderthals” for their obstruction to ACA expansion, railed against UCSD Left as “communists,” disparaged the number of international students at UCSD, called for the UC Regents to be sent to Guantanamo Bay, lamented the United States’ removal from the Paris Climate Accords, and called for the audience to adopt veganism. On two occasions, he flatly contradicted his fellow representative Schrupp by vociferously supporting the construction of a border wall, despite Schrupp’s explanations as to why a border wall would be ineffective.

Regarding Bologne’s participation, Miranda said that he had reached out.

“Kevin contacted us a week or so before the forum asking if his organization, UCSD Centrists, could participate. We agreed to their participation in hopes of exposing the students of UCSD to more diversity of opinion and letting them come to their own decisions as to which political organization they most align with.”

The audience was as much of a participant as the representatives were.

After Capuano’s response to Allegretti’s question on DREAMers, one audience member shot back, “Your privileged ass doesn’t know what ‘hard’ is!” Other audience members jeered at her with remarks popularized by Donald Trump such as “Get her outta here!” and “Take her coat!” Capuano himself responded by calling her a “thot.” She replied, “And I’m ratchet and I’m tramp-like, and you can’t block me here, Michael!”

Supporters of the College Democrats would applaud and cheer, often to Allegretti and Faust’s insistence that they were not finished speaking. UCSD Left supporters, while smaller in number, also cheered and snapped to their representatives’ interjections and proclamations. The College Republicans’ supporters would exclaim Trump quotations, roar, and murmur.

By the end of the forum, the five groups had exchanged opinions on several political topics. “The main goal of the forum is not only to expose the students to the multitude of opinions that are present on this campus but also to get students passionate about the beliefs they hold so they can express their opinions through voting or the infinite amount of ways they can give back to their communities,” Miranda said.

“We are confident that the voice of UCSD students is a strong one that should and must be allowed to be heard,” Miranda said, “and we want to do all we can to give every single student on our campus and surrounding communities the equal opportunity to have their voices heard.”