Campus News Blog: Guantanamo Debate Continues

February 28, 2009 by · Comments Off 

Posted by Elizabeth Siebman

SMU hosted the Wiley College debate team Wednesday to argue the issue of “Closing Guantanamo Bay.” During the debate, SMU argued the affirmative side and Wylie took the negative side.

Guantanamo Bay is a U.S. Naval base located in Cuba that has been used as a detention facility since 1987. It has been the topic of debate for many years due to its questionable tactics in housing prisoners.

The Obama administration recently signed an order suspending the base for 120 days and closing the detention center within a year. Earlier this week, however, a Pentagon official visited the location under the directions of the administration and found that the location followed the laws set forth by the Geneva Convention.

It appears that the debate over Guantanamo Bay is anything but over. SMU won the debate against Wylie; however, it will be interesting to see how the national debate over this controversial detention center ends.

Palin Impresses SMU Students in VP Debate

October 3, 2008 by · Comments Off 

By Kathryn Sharkey

Cheers filled the lecture hall for both candidates during the SMU Forensics vice presidential debate-watching party. But despite spirited applause for Sen. Joe Biden, students saw a clear winner: Gov. Sarah Palin.

SMU students gathered at the O’Donnell Lecture and Recital Hall in the Owen Arts Center Thursday evening to watch the vice presidential debate and to debate the issues themselves. The audience decided Palin won the televised debate, 30 to 25.

After the debate, audience members discussed health care and women’s rights, as well as education and the economy.

Senior Erika Paul, a political science and public policy major, said that with Palin, “we finally have a woman supporting conservative women, not just liberal.”

SMU Forensics debater Jennifer Smart said Palin is a breath of fresh air to the Republican Party and politics in general.

Smart said? the debate featured a lot of finger-pointing by the Obama campaign at the McCain campaign.

On Biden’s side, SMU Forensics debater Jordan Wondrack said, “Biden and Obama have superior foreign policy.”

Olu Sonubi, a graduate student in acting at Meadows School of the Arts, agreed.

“Biden was much more articulate on foreign policy,” he said, adding that he also was impressed by Palin’s performance.

Ben Voth, professor of communications and director of SMU Forensics, said he would rate Palin’s overall performance in the debate as a B+ and Biden a B.

But he also said: “I don’t think both did as well as I thought they would do.”

Voth said Biden was good on the issues, but Palin related to the audience and had a hometown feel that gave her an advantage.

After watching the presidential debate, students were invited to take part in a debate led by SMU Forensics students. Palin supporters won the student-led debate, 45 votes to 10.

Technical difficulties during the televised debate caused many audience members to leave. The debate was shown via projector, using the live Web site feed from The Web site froze and shut down, causing some people to watch the debate elsewhere.

Democracy Matters helped organize the debate with signs leading to the lecture hall, flyers on voting information, and optional sign-up sheets to come to their meetings about politics and the election.

SMU is part of the national program for voter education DebateWatch 2008. SMU Forensics sponsors the debate-watching events, with two more planned for the remaining presidential debates Oct. 7 and Oct. 15. The deadline to register to vote is Monday Oct. 6 and early voting begins Oct. 20.

For more information on voting visit and for absentee voting see






Informal Presidential Poll Shows Torn Campus

October 2, 2008 by · Comments Off 

By JP Coleman

The presidential race is close even on college campuses as SMU students were split between the two candidates, according to a recent informal poll conducted by university journalism students.

In 68 interviews conducted Wednesday, 30 students favored Obama as the candidate they were either likely to vote for or leaning towards, while 28 students named McCain as their candidate, and nine remained undecided. This comes a week after the first presidential debate that focused on the candidates’ foreign policy initiatives.

The interviews were conducted by students in a “Reporting I” class with varying political views in random locations around campus, including the Cox School of Business, Hughes-Trigg Student Center, Dedman Center for Lifetime Sports and the Umphrey Lee cafeteria.

The pro-Obama students threw their support to the Illinois senator for his calm rationale and because of his promises of change.

“The ability to listen to the American people and make sound decisions under pressure is the quality that seperates him from McCain,” sophomore Moe Alhuthali said.

Freshman Jacky Negrete said she also supports Obama for his ability to engage all voters.

“It is so rare to find a political leader that takes the time to reach out and inspire young voters,” Negrete said.

But with the recent financial banking crisis toppling Wall Street, many students like junior Jullian Summers say that McCain’s conservative economic views should be the guiding light through these though financial times.

“I feel that McCain is the best candidate to fix this financial crisis our country is facing and lead it back to the economic and financial leader in the world,” Summers said. “I believe in his free market laissez-faire approach.”

Before the Nov. 4 election, the nine undecided students will have to make up their minds, looking to various sources like the televised debates for help. The presidential debates, including last Friday’s, center on topics like foreign policy, the economy and domestic policy, with a vice presidential debate scheduled for Oct. 2.

Many students say the debates are a good venue for the candidates to get their policies and platforms out in the open for the American people.

“I think the debates can have a changing effect on people,” sophomore Linwood Fields said. “It provides a first hand look at candidates and how they plan to help people.”

Whether students have their minds made up or not, they must be registered to vote before the Nov. 4 election. Registration for Texas residents ends Oct. 6.

SMU Crowd Says McCain Won Debate

September 29, 2008 by · Comments Off 

By David Crawford

An SMU audience declared Sen. John McCain the winner of the first 2008 presidential debate between McCain and Sen. Barack Obama Friday at a campus gathering sponsored by the SMU speech and debate program.

The event, held at the O’Donnell Lecture and Recital Hall in Meadows Auditorium, was open to a general audience and was free of charge.

After the presidential debate aired, the audience of about 50 people sounded off on which candidate was more factual and who seemed to have an edge over the other.

The audience voted 31 to 15 that McCain won the debate, with four people changing their minds in favor of McCain by the end of the debate. One attendee reported switching in favor of Obama while three changed their minds to undecided.

Once the televised debate concluded in Oxford, Miss., pairs of SMU debate students defended their respective nominees. First-years Alex Ehmke and Al Young represented McCain, while juniors Deanna Vella and Brittany Ross spoke in favor of Obama.

“I prefer a candidate who actually addresses the issues, who sticks to his fundamental values and looks toward experience for change,” Ehmke said. “McCain did a good job of saying how we’re going to change rather than just what we’re going to change.”

This was disputed by Ross who said Obama’s plans “are more realistic and can be more quickly accomplished than McCain attacking each issue individually.”

“Obama wants to multitask, as every issue relates to one another, and every issue can yield better results if fixed by a well-balanced man,” Ross said.

The room was filled with cheers and jeers for both candidates during the debate, as the audience reacted to the candidates’ one-liners and strong words, such as when McCain called Obama “naive” and Obama overruled McCain’s facts and strategies in foreign affairs.

Prior to the debate, a panel of SMU faculty experts, led by SMU Forensics Professor Ben Voth, delivered their analyses and what the public should expect from the candidates.

“This debate is more than just a debate,” Voth said. “The candidates are trying to make themselves look presidential and prepared to lead the free world, while displaying how the other candidate is under qualified for the position.”

The intended focus of the debate was the senators’ goals pertaining to foreign policy and national security, specifically the war in Iraq and the recent tension in eastern Europe with Russia invading Georgia. The candidates also devoted extended time to economic issues.

Chris Salinas, assistant director of the Forensics program, said he believes that even though millions of people watched the debate, the candidates will have to be very convincing to get voters to change their minds.

“Not a great amount of the population will be persuaded,” Salinas said. “About 80 percent of them have their minds already made up and are looking for the candidates to solidify their opinions on what they already believe.”

The local debate was enhanced by the appearance of debate team members from Wiley College, a historically black liberal arts college from Marshall, Texas, whose rich debate history was portrayed in the 2007 film “The Great Debaters”. For the Wiley debaters, along with coach Shannon LaBove, the SMU event was a first step in reviving the status of the debate team, which has not formally competed in more than 60 years.

“It’s so important to have a setting where everyone can debate,” Labove said. “We are part of the process and we all have ideas about situations the nation is in.”

SMU Forensics will host three more debate watch events, beginning Thursday with the first vice presidential debate. The remaining two presidential debates are scheduled for Oct. 7 and Oct. 15. All debate watch events begin at 7 p.m. in O’Donnell Hall.