Prefect Council hosts student political debate


Senior representatives discuss their political opinions during the student presidential debate hosted by Prefect Council. Credit: Tessa Augsberger/Chronicle

Tessa Augsberger

Senior representatives participated in a political debate during Community Flex Time on Tuesday. Prefect Council hosted the debate, and history teacher Lauren Nichols ’03 and former history department chair Dave Waterhouse moderated it. Following an in person debate about the presidential election in 2016, this year’s political debate is the first virtual debate Prefect Council has hosted.

After Prefect Council sent an email about the debate to the senior class, four seniors were selected to participate. James Johnson-Brown ’21 and Natalie Ayeni ’21 served as representatives for the “left,” while Ryan Mashian ’21 and Liam Sullivan ’21 represented the “right.” Representatives from the “left” voiced more liberal opinions, and representatives from the “right” expressed views more commonly associated with conservatives.

Ayeni said the decorum of the representatives surpassed her expectations.

“I was actually surprised because the debate was mostly far more respectful than I anticipated,” Ayeni said. “It was pleasant to find that people on the opposing side were able to find common ground and vice versa.”

Senior prefect Thomas Schramm ’21 said the political debate was designed to foster student participation in the upcoming presidential election.

“We thought that a debate was a great opportunity for us as a school to not only share our ideas on important political issues, but also to promote civic engagement,” Schramm said.

Student representatives discussed COVID-19, police brutality, gun reform and the Supreme Court

The first segment of the debate covered the impact of COVID-19. Representatives responded to questions ranging from how the government should manage the pandemic to how technology companies should respond to misinformation regarding COVID-19. Other topics included police brutality and accountability, with a discussion about reallocating resources away from police departments and gun control. Representatives argued over gun reform measures and carrying rights on school campuses until the final topic, the structure of the Supreme Court and the legislative branch’s role in selecting justices, was discussed.

Schramm said he thinks the debate was informative and the representatives were considerate.

“We thought it went really well,” Schramm said. “All the speakers were not only respectful towards one another, but were able to find points of agreement and were able to hold a constructive conversation. It served as a really great discussion that we hope will serve as an example on how to hold a productive political conversation. We were somewhat apprehensive about hosting a debate in such a tumultuous political era, but we were confident in our peers and they proved us right.”

Representative Ayeni spoke about fostering student engagement in the political process

As a result of the debate, Ayeni said she wants the student body to gain a new understanding of the policies behind politics.

“I really hope the school community gained an interest in the topics we discussed, as it is incredibly important to have a well-informed population of future voters.” Ayeni said. “[I also hope the student body learns] that politics is more than just Democrat and Republican or ‘left’ and ‘right,’ but policies, proposals and laws that we should all remain aware of.”