Students demonstrate democracy in action at ‘power debate’
05.29.2015 | By Rob Vanya
San Jacinto College speech student Josue Barrera was a key presenter during the recent power debate. Photo credit: Rob Vanya, San Jacinto College marketing, public relations, and government affairs department.
HOUSTON – San Jacinto College students experienced democracy in action during a “power debate,” held recently at the North Campus in the Dr. Charles Grant Fine Arts auditorium.
Speech students debated for and against the issue of allowing students to carry concealed firearms on college campuses, legislation that is currently under consideration by Texas lawmakers.
The purpose of the debate was not in any way to indicate whether San Jacinto College or anyone connected with the College is for or against the issue, according to San Jacinto College speech professor Monica Yancey. “We understand that many people have strong ideas about this particular issue, and the debate was not presented to make any sort of stand one way or the other,” Yancey stated. “The real purpose was to educate students about contemporary political issues without taking sides. Each student debater determined whether or not he or she would present the affirmative or negative position by a random drawing, which shows clearly that the event was neutral and objective.”
Yancey said the main purpose of the debate was to allow students to find out about the legislative process through practical, hands-on experience. “In our public speaking classes, students have been engaging in a mock congress for around six weeks, and they selected the top speakers,” she said. “The selected speakers debated a resolution in an assembly. During the assembly, students in the audience were allowed to make timed addresses, just like an actual legislative public assembly.”
The debate was conducted by parliamentary rules, with all motions and procedures monitored by a student moderator.
Nathan Itle, who served as student moderator, gained valuable experience by participating in the mock congress and the culminating debate. “It was helpful to see how our legislative process works,” Itle said. “By participating, my fear of getting in front of people has diminished a great deal. I have learned I can state my opinions about different subjects without others looking down on me, or judging me, because we are all in the same boat.” After earning an associate degree in general studies from San Jacinto College in autumn 2016, Itle plans to transfer to the University of Houston to pursue a degree in electrical engineering.
Dr. Bill Raffetto, San Jacinto College North Campus provost, attended the debate and was impressed with how well the student debaters and audience members presented their views, and with the respectfulness shown by all students. “I believe public speaking is one of the most important areas of education and training, no matter what career path a person pursues,” Raffetto commented.
About San Jacinto College
Surrounded by monuments of history, industries and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has been serving the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, for more than 50 years. As an Achieving the Dream Leader College, San Jacinto College is committed to the goals and aspirations of a diverse population of approximately 30,000 credit students. The College offers 186 degrees and certificates, with 46 technical programs and a university transfer division. Students benefit from a support system that maps out a pathway for success, and job training programs that are renowned for meeting the needs of growing industries in the region. San Jacinto College graduates contribute nearly $690 million each year to the Texas workforce.