Student voices heard at MSU debate

Freedom Alliance and College Democrats pleased with result

Super Tuesday may have come and gone, but political debate and questioning hasn’t slowed down at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

In preparation for those caucuses, the MSU Freedom Alliance and the College Democrats clashed in a mock town-hall style debate Monday evening in the Ostrander Auditorium. Being that it was town-hall style, the students and the public were highly encouraged to attend and ask questions to the six debaters from both organizations.

Topics asked of the debaters were their stances on the Syrian refugee crisis, to gay marriage, and women’s reproductive rights. Representing the College Democrats in the debate were John Neitge, Alex Johnson and Jeff Mathwig. For the Freedom Alliance, the debaters participating were Lizzy Piepho, Derek Durst and Matthew Lehman. Moderating the debate was Jack Lindsay, the president of the College Democrats, and Wes Huntington, representing the Freedom Alliance.

All six debaters felt the debate went really well, but several had differing opinions. Both Lehman and Durst both agreed that work needed to be done.

“I loved every second of the debate. I’ve been in debate since high school, and I love debating and I thought it went phenomenally. I wish we had more time to touch on other points, but maybe that’s all the more excuse to try and organize another one,” Neitge said.

Mathwig was a part of one back in November, in which the College Democrats clashed in a similar style debate with the MSU chapter of Young Americans for Liberty, a non-partisan, liberty-minded organization. “Compared to the last debate, I would say that this one was two times as good, if not more,” he said.
The debaters felt they were at their best when it came to the issues that mattered to them the most.
“I would probably have to say my exchange on NASA and maybe my issue with Syria,” Durst said. One of the questions asked was on NASA and space exploration, and while both Durst and Mathwig agreed that NASA is a great program, they argued over the spending of it.

Mathwig felt differently than the rest of the debaters when it came to his best at the debate. “I only answered three questions, and I think that I answered each of them incredibly effectively. I didn’t think there was a single one of them I did bad on,” he said.

However, with the good comes the bad. Many topics that the audience asked the debaters, either one side or the other clearly had a great way to address the issue given to them. “Maybe not understanding question, or realizing I wasn’t current enough on different topics,” Piepho said.

As to whether or not the debate got students and the public excited about the election cycle, opinions varied. “I definitely hope that it kind of spread our enthusiasm about politics. I know that all six of us are all very engaged and very enthusiastic in politic, even if we have different viewpoints on it. Ideally, it should help with getting other students interested in politics because it matters,” Johnson said.

Finally, in order to get more information about the political process in general, both Johnson and Lehman have this advice. “Go out there and read and learn about the political process. Attend meetings of the groups. Learn more about what side you actually are on,” Lehman said. “I’m not the first of these six people to say this, but the Internet is a lovely tool to figure out not only who you side with but also the process.”

Photo: John Neitge of the College Democrats responds to an audience question. (Yohanes Ashenafi/The Reporter)

Wes Huntington

Wes Huntington is a senior mass media student. He is also the senior host of Radio a La Carte on KMSU-FM, which airs from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. every weekday. You can reach him by emailing him at

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