On Tuesday, April 21st 2015 the Turning Point USA Chapter at the University of Wisconsin-Madison hosted Harvard Professor Randall Kennedy and Wall Street Journal Columnist Jason Riley to debate affirmative action policies.
On a campus drenched in liberal ideology, we caught the attention of students, faculty and community members with the title, “Liberal Policies make it Harder for Black Americans to Succeed”. It is common for student groups on campus to bring speakers to present to their club members, but it is rare for ideas to be exchanged through debate in front of an ideologically diverse group. Turning Point USA accomplished this as 100 people flooded the debate room on Tuesday.
Our guests began with their opening statements. Jason Riley focused on pure numbers. He pointed out the staggering increase in unemployment following the implementation of affirmative action policies, and the sharp decrease in college graduates as some students are being admitted to universities where they find it difficult to maintain their grades. Dr. Kennedy countered by pointing out that this was all occurring during Republican presidencies, and that there needs to be a community, not individual, effort towards helping Black Americans succeed. Dr. Kennedy and Jason Riley continued their heated debate. Dr. Kennedy called for a right to employment, believing that everybody should be given a job. Riley responded saying, we have tried that, in Russia, and we all know how that turned out.
As the evening continued, an engaged audience asked their final questions and Dr. Kennedy and Jason Riley gave their closing statements. Mr. Riley used his time to discuss black crime, a pressing issue in America and in Madison, as black lives matter protestors swarmed the Capitol just weeks ago. Riley began by reading an article in the Wall Street Journal that documented the numerous killings in New York on just one weekend. He said that if black lives matter, why are these issues not being addressed? Police-on-black crime accounts for 2% of deaths. Riley wants to focus on the 98%. Dr. Kennedy did not disagree with this statement, but he pushed the importance of people standing up and protesting those in power who are misusing it.
As the debate came to a close, the audience stayed to ask their additional questions and take photographs with the speakers. One man, a former professor at UW-Madison, approached me and thanked our group for hosting such a great debate. He said that something like this has not been done since the 90s. Unfortunately, I think students and faculty fear conflict on this campus. They do not like to be challenged or put into an uncomfortable position, but if we truly believe in education, this needs to happen.
I would like to thank Stephen Herreid of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute for sponsoring this event and the TPUSA UW-Madison team, Vice President Justin Lemke, PR Director Meagan Roberts and Outreach Director Isaac Mehlhaff. Our Spring Debate was a success and I cannot wait to share what we will be doing in Madison next!