By Laurean Love
Leaders from the Republican and Democratic parties of McLennan County will gather tonight for a public discussion of the upcoming election at 8 p.m. in the Brooks Flats Lobby.
The event, “The Choice: A Conversation,” is sponsored by Brooks Flats, Kokernot, Arbors, Fairmont and Gables residential communities.
The session is free and open to faculty, staff and students.
Kelly McDonald, who will speak on behalf of the McLennan County Democratic Party, and Ralph Patterson, who will speak for the McLennan County Republicans, will engage in conversation with moderator Dr. Jonathan Tran, faculty in residence of Brooks Flats and associate professor of religion.
Tran will ask several questions and then open the floor to audience participation.
The participants will discuss the parties’ views on local, state and national matters, and the candidates and issues that will be important to students in the upcoming election.
“I think it is really important for our students, many of whom are first-time voters, to hear several different sides of any issue,” said Dr. Laine Scales, associate dean at the Graduate School, and professor of higher education. “That is a big part of developing your critical thinking skills, so you do not latch on too soon to an opinion until you have heard multiple sides.”
Tran said he hoped the debates will engage students and encourage discussion.
“We wanted to give students the opportunity to hear from local party leadership and how they think about these matters and then engage them in conversation,” Tran said. “It is important because our students are voters wanting to learn about the election and also because most are Christians and will be able to discuss Christian matters.”
According to a study done by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, approximately 10.8 million American youth, ages 18 to 29, voted during the presidential election in 2010, which is 11.3 percent of all votes cast.
“We are hoping this discussion exposes students to sides of a question or an issue that they may have not considered,” Scales said.
“The residence hall I am in, Kokernot, is all freshmen, and so generally, this is their first voting opportunity because they have just turned 18 since the last election. We believe in helping voters to be as informed as they possibly can, and this is a great opportunity for students to come and learn,” she said.