The Yale Political Union hosted former presidential candidate Jill Stein for its annual Bulldog Days debate, held at the United Church on the Green on Monday evening. The issue discussed — whether public college ought to be tuition-free — struck a more personal note with many of the admitted students in attendance.
Stein was the Green Party nominee in the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections, as well as a candidate for governor of Massachusetts in both 2002 and 2010. Throughout her political career, Stein has been an advocate for student debt relief efforts as well as for free public postsecondary education. At Monday’s debate, which filled the church pews, Stein expressed her disdain for firms that have profited from student loans.
“We have an entire generation now that has become the latest cash cow for a predatory economic system,” she said.
Stein delivered the first speech of the evening, speaking in favor of making public colleges tuition free. In her address, she cited the “Green New Deal” through which her party has pushed for more jobs in renewable energy sectors. Stein said that in order to develop a workforce able to fill these kinds of jobs, America must expand educational opportunities by eliminating tuition costs and relieving the burden of student debt.
Stein, who holds degrees from both Harvard College and Harvard Medical School, also commended the students who have stood up to what she called an era of “neofascism, xenophobia, racism and antisemitism.”
Andrew Israel ’20, a member of the Tory Party who spoke directly after Stein, rebutted much of Stein’s argument. Israel said that if the U.S. made public education free, it would dilute the value of a college degree. He also criticized the education systems of Scandinavian countries, which Stein championed as a model for the U.S. to follow, for limiting the academic choices of students early in life.
Eric de Villiers ’17, a representative of the Federalist Party, rejected the notion that the solution to America’s faltering educational system was simply to inject it with more money. De Villiers asserted that the underlying flaw was in fact a dearth of effective and committed teachers, something he learned from watching the time and effort his mother put into her job as a teacher.
Lauren Bond, an admitted student from Orinda, California, called the debate “politics at work” and said that she was excited by the opportunity to hear Stein speak during Bulldog Days. And Katie Wells of Grand Rapids, Michigan, said she was astonished that such a “big-name speaker” would come to campus for her first night on Yale’s campus.
“What other opportunity would you have to interact with such an important political figure at such a close range? And you’re not just listening, you’re participating,” Bond said.
Some of the prefrosh interviewed expressed surprise at the YPU’s boisterous debate style. Renee Su said that her high school in Fountain Valley, California, did not have anything like the union, and that she was taken aback by “all the hissing and table-pounding.” Still, Su echoed her peers in saying that the debate was a fun and interesting experience.
Qusay Omran said the union was reminiscent of Model United Nations at his high school in Michigan. Omran said the debate sparked his interest in joining the YPU next fall.
Alex Zbornak, a prefrosh from Los Angeles, said he was heartened to see a high level of political engagement within the Yale student body. And Evan Vischer, an admitted student from Malibu, California, said he was impressed by the diversity of thought present at the debate.
“They had two different liberal parties and two different conservative parties, and then all the anarchists yelling stuff from the back,” Vischer said.
The YPU is comprised of seven different parties.