Posted September 25, 2012

Student political groups provide hope for bipartisanship

At a time when elected government officials from the major political parties are seemingly at each other's proverbial throatsand many feel the country has never been so polarized, Temple’s Democratic and Republican student organizations might be a model for bipartisan cooperation.

This semester the two student organizations have collaborated, in conjunction with Temple Student Government, to register more than 3,000 new voters on campus. And they co-sponsored the $10 Million-A-Minute Tour's visit to Temple on Sept. 11 to raise awareness about the country’s financial condition.

And on Oct. 26, the leaders of each group will meet in front of an audience to present their respective party's platforms and attempt to debunk each other's positions.

But if it sounds like a debate, it's not.

The "undebate" is taking place as part of a series of "Dissent in America Teach-Ins" held on campus each semester by Ralph Young, a faculty member in Temple's Department of History. The forum is intended to generate a lot of questions and discussion.

"When the Temple Democrats and Temple Republicans can come together to discuss the issues, it gives both of our organizations a sense of legitimacy and it demonstrates what we cherish about a democracy," said Dylan Morpurgo, president of the Temple Democrats.

That sentiment epitomizes the current relationship between the two student organizations.

"When the leaders of the two groups sponsor and attend events together, it sets a tone of cooperation and professionalism. And that's important," said Darin Bartholomew, vice chair of the Temple Republicans.

Another outcome of the cooperative relationship is an increased level of political engagement across campus. That played out last spring when members of both organizations worked together to advocate in Harrisburg for state funding for the university.

"The leaders of these organizations are impressive for the way they are able to come together to support common causes," said Andrew McGinley, manager of public affairs and policy at Temple.

Both groups sent large contingents to Cherry and White Week in Harrisburg to help Temple advocate for state funding.

"They are a model of bipartisanship," said McGinley.

But it wasn't always so.

Last spring, when the two groups jointly held a debate, called "The Battle for the Future," it was the first time in at least four years that such a debate had taken place.

"Prior to that, there was a lot of trying to 'one up' one another as organizations rather than doing what would be best for both groups and the membership,” said Bartholomew. “Fortunately, I think those times are well behind us."

Now the two organizations are benefiting from a new atmosphere of cooperation. Erik Jacobs, chair of the Temple Republicans, who spearheaded the effort to hold last semester's debate, explains it this way: "When you are politically active, you tend to hang out with people who hold the same views you do. But when the Temple Dems and Temple Republicans can come together, it's an opportunity to hear the other sides of the arguments from smart, rival sources."