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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Student representatives from College Democrats, College Republicans debate issues related to campus

Civil debate gives opportunity for two groups to express differing opinions
Paige Valley

The University of Wisconsin chapters of College Democrats and College Republicans participated in a debate hosted by the Wisconsin Union Directorate Society and Politics Tuesday evening.

The event was moderated by students from the Political Science Association and WUD Society and Politics, with introductions by Committee Director of Society and Politics Ben Jaccard, President of the Political Science Association Christina Treacy and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Lori Reesor. The event had around 35 attendees, including both UW students and members of the greater Madison community.

Moderators divided the debate into four topics — democracy, environment, healthcare and campus issues. Members of both College Republicans and College Democrats said noted issues, such as access to contraceptives, the affordability of college and free speech were all important.


In the healthcare section, student representatives discussed access to oral contraceptives.

College Republican representative Benjamin Rothove said birth control should be accessible for all, but that mifepristone and misoprostol do not qualify, as contraceptives prevent pregnancy and pills such as mifepristone are abortive. Mifepristone and misoprostol can be taken to end a pregnancy and can be prescribed by healthcare providers, including Planned Parenthood. 

“These two separate issues cannot be wrapped up into one as has been attempted by many on the left,” Rothove said.

In 2023, the Food and Drug Administration made mifepristone more widely available by allowing prescribers and certain pharmacies to dispense the pill, according to the FDA. This action is currently blocked due to a case before the Supreme Court challenging the access after the overturning of Roe v. Wade in 2022, according to The New York Times.

Representatives from College Democrats emphasized the issue of contraceptives as the right for people with uteruses to access healthcare, something elected Democrats attempted to do in the Wisconsin State Legislature through the “Right to Contraception Act,” before it was struck down by Republicans.

In the campus issues section, representatives discussed what actions the government should take to make college tuition and expenses more affordable. The Democratic representative immediately commented on the high housing costs in Madison.

The College Democrats representative then highlighted the efforts on the state level Republicans have not made to make college more affordable, including blocking a bill that would have made contractors ensure a percentage of units were set aside for affordable housing.

College Republican representative Tyler Buechs highlighted the benefits of trade school, arguing that not everyone needs to go to college and condemning President Joe Biden’s recent round of student loan debt relief, as those in Wisconsin still have to pay taxes on the relief. Buechs also encouraged the cutting of what they deemed unnecessary spending, which includes DEI programs.

During the campus issues section, the two groups were asked how universities should balance free speech rights with concerns about hate speech and discrimination on campus.

Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin has emphasized free speech as a priority at the university since her Investiture, confirmed again in a roundtable with student media in December, according to previous reporting from The Badger Herald.

Representatives from both sides pointed to the ongoing challenges of free speech on campus including recently hosted speakers, such as Michael Knowles and Ben Shapiro, and a video that surfaced last May of a UW student repeatedly using racial slurs.

Each group emphasized the importance of free speech and protecting it under the First Amendment, especially on campus and with ideas they do not necessarily agree with.

“As Democrats, we fully support freedom of speech even for ideas we don’t agree with,” a College Democrat representative said. “In a democracy, a plurality of ideas in public debate keeps progress moving forward … It doesn’t mean that a person can say absolutely whatever they want … It’s [violent and threatening speech] against the law. The First Amendment does not protect this sort of speech.”

Both groups also expressed their discontent with the way UW handled the incident with the student in the racist video. 

Rothove said students on campus were afraid to speak up on controversial topics in class, especially if their ideas were conservative. According to the most recent UW System Student Views on Freedom of Speech survey, 57% of students are still hesitant to speak out about issues that might be controversial, with 67% of these aligning themselves as Republican. Reasons for not speaking out include worry about receiving a lower grade, the instructor dismissing their views as offensive or other students would not agree, according to the survey.

“The root of this problem is the illiberal excesses of the DEI,” Rothove said. “On the campus DEI administrators are acting against the best interests of the students, faculty and academia as a whole. To fix problems with free speech, we need to start with defunding DEI.”

College Democrats refuted this point, saying that DEI stands for diversity, equity and inclusion — things that uplift historically silenced voices, claiming that there is no connection between DEI and restricting people’s First Amendment rights.

The debate ended with the two groups expressing their thanks that such an event was possible. Both groups acknowledged their differences in opinions regarding the issues they discussed, but were grateful they could discuss them in a civil manner.

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