February 20, 2019 | 33° F

Debate team questions Constitutional Convention’s use

Argument comes down to one decisive vote

Photo by Vaishali Nayak |

Rutgers University Debate Union members Gordon Morrisette (left), Ashley Novak and Bhargavi Sriram argue whether the corporate dollar has become too influential in politics Monday night at the Douglass Campus Center.

About 40 audience members voted to against having a Constitutional Convention after the Rutgers University Debate Union concluded its arguments Monday night at Trayes Hall in the Douglas Campus Center.

It was a close debate, with the winners gaining 16 votes to the opposing team’s 15.

The debate also sparked many questions and comments from the crowd.

The questions — “Should we have a Constitutional Convention?” — was heavily debated through a discussion of the corporate dollar and whether it had become too influential in today’s politics.

“Companies co-op the system by lending money to politicians,” said Gordon Morrisette, prime minister of the debate. “These donations allow them to capture legislative outcomes.”

The winning opposition team argued that the corporate dollar does not have more influence than the power of the vote.

“When you stop the corporations right to free speech, you are also stopping the ability of other groups to speak. ... Corporations are people, too,” said Bhargavi Sriram, RUDU vice president, while advocating for no convention.

There are alternatives to bettering the political system than a convention, such as creating stricter laws and regulations for corporations and how they spend their campaign dollar said Sriram, a Rutgers Business School senior.

Ashley Novack’s argument in support of a convention focused on the opposition’s flaws.

“There is no violation of free speech,” Novack, a School of Arts and Sciences junior. “A corporation could still speak for a candidate, they just couldn’t buy them out.”

Novack said there are a lot of alternatives to more involvement in the political process where candidates would not be beholden to corporate money. The reason there have been no new regulations is because of corporate control in politics, she said.

The last debater focused on how changes naturally happen in a democracy while debating against the convention.

“Democracy has never been perfect in America,” said Arbi Llaveshi, a School of Arts and Sciences junior. “These issues about lobbying and corporations haven’t been around for that long, public momentum has to build up over time, this is why we haven’t passed more regulations.”

The winning opposition emphasized that the vote resides in the citizenry, not the corporations.

The three-person panel of faculty members ensured the crowd understood that more money does not necessarily meander votes and that some scholars do not see favor and influence being bought and sold in Washington, D.C., as a problem.

Melanye Price, assistant professor in the Department of Africana Studies, said it would be difficult to have the public call for a constitutional convention.

“There is nothing in the constitution that talks about this,” Price. “There is a hope that if millions of Americans got together to sign a petition for a convention, the states would feel compelled to do something.”

Andrew Murphy, associate professor in the Department of Political Science, talked more about the issues at hand and whether they were even relevant to the Constitution.

“There is a larger domain here,” Murphy said. “The question depends a lot on how one defines the ills of the country and whether or not they are even constitutional.”

He said problems, such as rising use of a filibuster, monetary issues in the capital and grasping the evils in the current U.S. political system cannot be solved through a Constitutional Convention.

“When we call a convention, anything is on the table,” Murphy said.

Having a Constitutional Convention would create another Constitution that would have similar issues as the original Constitution, he said.

Students were able to ask faculty members questions, and many inquired about Citizens United, an organization dedicated to gaining control for citizens rather than government.

“We haven’t really had a lot of time to react to Citizens United,” Price said. “We don’t really know yet how an organization like that will affect our country.”

By Megan Morreale

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