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Jaime Danies for Spectator

Tuesday evening, four political factions on campus came together for a debate to convince Columbia students to support their respective chosen candidate in the 2016 presidential election. Republicans awkwardly commented on police brutality, Democrats called for more coalitions in Syria, Libertarians resisted a planned green economy, and Socialists railed against the corporate machine. It was an all-encompassing debate touching on Palestine, North Dakota, and Iran, and yet, despite being held in the most-filmed lecture hall in the country, Columbia wasn't even mentioned.

This isn't to say that nothing discussed in the debate was important. This election, like every election, revolves around hundreds of issues. The four parties combined have written hundreds of pages on what direction our country should go in and what policies will take us there.

However, most of those issues have been covered, and extensively so, by the national media. If you missed the debate on Nov. 1, you could replay the national debates, watch roundtables ad nauseam on the televised news, or even listen to podcasts on the internet, and your experience wouldn't be that different. Anyone can toast to the value of the free market. Anyone can condemn systemic racism. Anyone can express fear of terrorism. In trying to oneup each other over whose judgment is correct on these issues, the student political groups failed to give Columbia students a reason to show up and listen.

Despite attempts to address everything, the moderators didn't ask one college-related question. They didn't even ask about student debt, which is the number-one college issue for national campaigns. This is a shame because in this election, there are many issues that directly affect us as Columbia students and will be heavily impacted by who wins the White House.

The next president will determine how to deal with over $800 billion in federally issued student debt. The next president will appoint a new justice to the Supreme Court, which may rule once again on affirmative action and whether colleges should be allowed to use it. The next president will appoint new officials to the Department of Education, which oversees enforcement for Title IX, the federal government's tool in directing colleges on how to handle sexual assault.

On these issues, the parties could have engaged in controversial yet rigorous debate not just on the direction of the country, but on the direction of the University. That would have been a unique event, one worth livestreaming and discussing up until the election and beyond.

No one saw that event on Tuesday. They did see another Republican condemn violent refugees and another Democrat defend Hillary Clinton's record on race relations and mass incarceration.

Alison Fraerman, BC '19, ended the debate with the refrain familiar to us all, particularly to those who have read the Columbia Political Union's Spectator op-ed from a few weeks back: Vote. Vote because your congresspeople need you. Vote because state and local elections matter. Vote because people died so that you could have the option.

Let me implore you to vote in a different way. If you think affirmative action is a critical aspect of college admissions, then vote. If you think that a sexual predator shouldn't be responsible for appointing officials to direct the government's response to sexual assault, then vote. If you think that someone needs to fix the student debt crisis so that you don't have to live with your parents until you're 30, then vote.

Not voting does not excuse you from the consequences to follow, and if you care about the rest of your college experience, there is incentive to take hours out of your university holiday to vote. If you decide not to vote after the last word is spoken, you should at least know Columbia isn't an island where you can wait out four years of hell. Columbia is America, and her fate is decided on the Nov. 8.

The author is a Columbia College first-year studying political science. Paulina Mangubat, BC '17 and Spectator's editorial page editor, recused herself from editing this op-ed because of her involvement in planning and moderating The Last Word: A Debate and Discussion Among Four Parties.

To respond to this op-ed, or to submit an op-ed, contact opinion@columbiaspectator.com.

election 2016 debate vote affirmative action Title IX Student Debt 2016 election
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