In an election season wrought with vicious advertising and debates that could be seen as confrontational, it may seem an odd proposition to suggest that two opposing politically focused student groups were able to cooperate.
Members of two of Penn State’s political student groups --–– the Penn State College Democrats and the Penn State College Republicans –– work together frequently, discussing with each other all the civil focal points of the day, according to their respective presidents.
During the election season, both clubs were active in engaging one another. Both clubs participated in debates hosted by the Political Science Association and the Penn State College Independents about many of the issues surrounding the election, and both groups felt they ran without producing any sort of animosity between club members on opposite sides.
“There is a mutual respect that everyone on either side holds for each other during these debates,” Drew McGehrin, president of the Penn State College Democrats, said. “Obviously, we will all have disagreements, as our views rarely align, but once you step outside of that political realm, it’s not hard for any of us to foster good relationships with one another.”
Such a cleanly run partnership between the two clubs is extremely beneficial to the Penn State community, McGehrin (senior-religious studies and history) said. He said he believes the lack of hostility allows the two groups to focus more on raising student awareness about the important political issues facing the country today.
“The good relationship we have is far more beneficial in terms of boosting student awareness and education about important political issues,” McGehrin said. “Working together, we can more or less double our effort on those fronts, which is, in the end, good for everyone.”
Penn State students seem to generally agree with this stance, favoring a kind of collective collaboration between the two groups, rather than a strategy, which aims only to build up support for their views and beliefs by knocking down the others.
Justin Hines (junior-nuclear engineering) sees both the benefit of having the groups work together and the benefit of having them work apart, so long as each refrains from attempting to attack the other in either process.
“I think they could work together, because it should be both of their goals to make the university more educated about politics,” Hines said. “But they don’t need to hate each other.”
Hines said it would probably work just as well, if not better, if the two groups were able to work separately to teach students about their respective views, so that they might be more informed about their party’s stances.
For now, that is what both of the clubs plan to do. Previously when an election has not been imminent, there have been debates about state and national policy issues such as gun control, immigration, and equal rights amendments, Penn State College Republicans President Jordan Harris said.
But currently there is not much in the way of plans to hold a meeting between the two groups, Harris said, though he is confident there will be in the future.
Nevertheless, Harris said he is satisfied with the relationship the two clubs have developed through the years and thinks that both have come to respect the difference between opposing someone on an intellectual level and on a personal level.
“I think that the way we work together allows us to help ensure the entire Penn State community has a means to fulfill their civic duty responsibly,” Harris said. “We understand that we disagree, but we also understand that there is no need to make an effort to embarrass one another by utilizing these disagreements.”
Harris added that he was looking forward to the next meeting between the two groups, quipping that his role as chief debater usually ensures a Republican victory.
But McGehrin joked he was unsure what Harris was saying.
“Yeah, I don’t know what he’s talking about, [the Democrats] always win, but I guess I know what I’ll be bringing up the next time I see him.”
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