University hosts debate watch party

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University students and faculty gathered Monday night in Carter Hall to watch the presidential debate and engage in a civil discussion.

Before the debate began Associate Professor of Social Work Wendy Turner-Frey poke on the  importance of civility in debates between people who disagree.

She said emotions run high in these confrontations and opposing sides take issue with differing political views.

“When we have strong emotions like that, it’s difficult for us to think logically,” Turner-Frey said.

She explained how such “strong emotions” result in debaters identifying logical errors and using them to sway others’ opinions. This, she said, is known as a fallacy.

Fallacies, such as ad hominem, strawman and appeal to fear all distract from the subject and can lead to uncivil and unconstructive debates. Ad hominem relies on an argument based on an individual and not their position. Strawman is the exaggeration or fabrication of someone’s argument and appeal to fear is the attempt to create fear or prejudice toward one side.

When it came to the debate itself, several students found it to be more about insulting and less about policy.

“As a Trump supporter, I don’t agree with the way that Trump handles himself and speaks,” said junior accounting major Kyle LaFaive, sporting his “Make America Great Again” hat. “I am more with him for his policies and his opinions on things.”

LaFaive said his criticalness toward how Trump presented himself stems from what he learned about the fallacies.

“I think that Trump hasn’t really changed, especially in the debate manner,” he said. “A lot of people like him for speaking his mind and saying ‘inappropriate things’ that other people just wouldn’t feel comfortable saying.”

He said both candidates utilized many of the fallacies and lacked the civility he was hoping they would apply.

“I thought it was interesting that we saw so many of those logical fallacies that we talked about earlier,” said senior engineering major and President of the College Republicans Daniel McMurtry. “It’s ridiculous how many fallacies were committed and the whole thing was just an insult fight and that’s unfortunate that that’s what our politics has devolved to.”

McMurtry said he didn’t learn anything new from either of the candidates and predicted both Hillary and Trump were going to be “completely unpalatable characters.”

There were also questions in the room about how the moderator for the debate, NBC’s Lester Holt, would handle the claims coming from both candidates and if he would fact-check their assertions during the debate.

“I think Lester Holt was a little afraid of suffering Matt Lauer syndrome,” McMurtry said. “To his credit, I think he did an OK job, but I think he threw a lot of softballs to Hillary and didn’t treat them quite equally, but I think he did a better job than I anticipated.”

Ultimately McMurtry decided the debate’s winner would be whichever candidate looked the most poised to become the next commander-in-chief.

“My biggest takeaway was that Hillary looked presidential,” he said. “I don’t think Trump did the job he should have done.”

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