By Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal
BOONEVILLE – Students, faculty, staff and people from the general public packed the student union’s Claude Wright Room on the Northeast campus as two newspaper columnists debated issues from their conservative and progressive perspectives.
Ed Holliday – a Tupelo dentist and Tea Party Republican – and James Hull – a progressive Democrat, journalist and media consultant – present opposing viewpoints regularly in a monthly column on the Daily Journal’s op-ed page.
On Thursday they met face-to-face for a presidential-style debate promoted as “Hull vs. Holliday – We’ve Agreed to Disagree: Two Political Activists Discuss the Issues for the Rest of Us,” organized by Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and the Cultural Arts Committee.
On two questions prepared by the Cultural Arts Committee, Hull and Holliday each had five minutes to present his position, followed by a two minute response from each, then a one minute rebuttal.
Holliday led on the question “To what extent should state and federal government fund public two-year colleges and provide financial aid to the student populations they serve?”
On the second question, “Is Obama’s proposed jobs bill a feasible compromise solution to the country’s job crisis? Why or why not?,” Hull gave the first response.
Each argued the questions along ideological lines, though Holliday’s response on government funding of community colleges was tempered by his own history as a product of Northeast, where his father is still on the board of trustees. He said the state Legislature’s mid-level funding proposal for community colleges was the right approach as long as the funding is adequate.
Hull countered that the state must fully meet its commitment to higher education funding, and reducing corporate tax breaks would allow the state to afford to meet that obligation.
Additionally, members of the audience were asked to text or tweet their questions, and two of those were selected for answers, one about the two-party system and the other about Initiative 26 on personhood.
Phi Theta Kappa had included on student attendance cards questions about whether discussions during the debate influenced their thinking.
“It really did, actually,” said Dustin Akins, a freshman from Ripley. “On Initiative 26 the conservatives have a better grasp on getting voter attention, but it really should be a woman’s choice. Everybody should vote. If you end up with bad representation you have only yourself to blame.”
Phil Theta Kappa member Hillary Williams, a Red Bay, Ala. sophomore, found the process interesting.
“I believe they both had very good points, but I agreed with Mr. Hull on more issues,” she said.
The discussion moved Rashad Bogan, a sophomore from Tupelo, to decide to register and vote.
“They made some really good points,” he said.