Pizza, beverages and extra-credit didn’t seem to satisfy all audience’s in a diplomatic conference as protestors were escorted out of the discussion board hosted by Pierce’s Political Science Society on Monday, March 25, in the Great Hall.
The topic of this meeting was Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who made comments recently that were critical of the Israeli government and Pro-Israel groups.
The discussion was open to students of any and all political backgrounds. As a result, a large crowd turned up to the event.
“This is probably the biggest outcome we’ve ever had,” Club President Emiliano Acosta said. “Usually we have around 15 to 18 people, today we had around 26.”
Some of Omar’s controversial tweets were displayed on the classroom’s smart board, and students soon began discussing whether the tweets were anti-Semitic or not.
Partway through the discussion, a student with an anti-Omar sign stood outside of the classroom. The sign featured a swastika on it, equating Ilhan Omar with the Nazis.
Student Daniel Levi called campus security on the protester.
“I called the sheriff because they told me that this wasn’t a free-speech zone,” Levi said. “He had the sign up for everyone to see in class and they were getting uncomfortable.”
Campus security told the protesting student that he had to take the sign down because he was not in a free-speech zone. The student obeyed, and then proceeded into the classroom to join the debate.
Levi was glad that the protesting student came inside to debate.
“He came inside the class and actually talked and showed his opinion on [Omar],” Levi said. “Hopefully he’ll come back and [share] his opinion instead of just standing outside with a sign.
At the end of the discussion, students seem to have differing opinions on the outcome of the event.
Levi said that he didn’t think anyone’s opinions changed.
“I don’t think anyone switched their sides,” Levi said. “I think it was more ‘this is how we view it, this is how you view it’ and more arguing instead of people trying to figure out how to come together and figure [out] a real solution.”
Another student, Komalpreet Batth, agrees with Levi.
“I feel like no one actually walks out of the classroom learning anything,” said Batth. “Everyone’s just bickering.”
Student Maie Aded said that she felt the discussion was important, but that it didn’t go exactly as she had hoped it would.
“I think in a way it was productive,” Aded said. “But I also think that a lot of people stayed stuck in their ideas and weren’t as open to listening as I would have liked.”
Student Jacob Brenner felt that the important part about this debate wasn’t necessarily that people change their viewpoints, but that people stay informed on current events.
“Any discussion of politics or world events is always important because we need to stay informed,” Brenner said.
Although there were students of all backgrounds and ages, there was a clear dichotomy between the older and younger generations.
“I think it was split between young and old people,” Levi said. “There were a few older people and they were on the right side of things, and the younger people were on the left side of things.”
Club President Acosta said that he expected this to happen.
“By default, on campus, you’ll find younger generations who are left [wing],” Acosta said. “Especially in California, the younger people are more liberal, and the older folks are more republican.”
Luis Richter, a senior citizen, was one of the few who believed that Omar’s remarks were anti-Semitic. He found few allies during the discussion, although he was expecting to be a minority from the beginning.
“Looking at all young people around me, I’m not surprised that most of them were influenced by left-wing [politics]” Richter said. “It’s a generational thing.”
Despite this, Richter said that he was glad he came.
“I had a positive experience,” Richter said. “The club is well-run. It’s orderly, [and] the people are respectful whether they agree or disagree.”