Editorial: Noise, not reason

Say what you want about ASU, but it certainly has had a penchant for drawing some prominent and charismatic speakers.

In the last few years our campuses has had big-name visitors ranging from presidential candidate Ron Paul to current President Barack Obama. Just this past weekend, ASU Gammage played host to two big political players.

Karl Rove, former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to former President George W. Bush, and Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont and former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, graced ASU with a politically charged debate Saturday.

Sponsored by the Undergraduate Student Government, the two verbally duked it out on major issues facing the American electorate, including health care, immigration and local and national budgets.

USG deserves a lot of credit for putting the event together — it’s not every day that we have a chance to see a debate between two such intelligent political minds.

“We’d heard that [Rove and Dean] had done this in a couple of college campuses across the nation,” USG President Brendan O’Kelly said, adding that USG worked with Keppler Speakers to set up the time and date for the speakers to meet in front of an Arizona audience.

Near the start of the event, the Gammage box office reported that it was near to being sold out, O’Kelly said. The revenue from the tickets will be funneled back into the University’s financial aid system to help provide funds for students demonstrating financial need, he added.

All in all, USG did a pretty commendable job with the whole event.

But unfortunately, less can be said for the spectators.

Dean and Rove come from very different political ideologies, and based on the consistent shouting of the crowd, the audience did too. The speakers said some things spectators liked, and some things they vehemently disagreed with — all well and good, and a key part of a debate. What was not key, but rather disruptive and offensive, was when Rove and Dean were constantly interrupted by shouts of “war criminal!” “communist!” or other epithets throughout the entire hour and a half they were supposed to be talking.

Certainly people are entitled to their opinions, but marring what was supposed to be an academic debate on public policy only proved right, yet again, how ASU is so often portrayed: as a noisy, indecorous party college, unequal to highbrow schools like Princeton or Yale — even if some of the protesters were not students.

The debate echoed what transpired at a Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication event featuring Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Spectators booed him off the stage with a reworked version of Bohemian Rhapsody, further perpetuating the idea that ASU students are rowdy and rude.

One of the biggest hurdles that ASU faces is not the quality of its education, it is the attitude with which people approach the school. If we at ASU continue to allow ungracious behavior toward people we don’t agree with, we don’t look like the University that has earned millions of dollars in research grants — we just look uneducated.

Protesting for your beliefs is admirable, but the debate wasn’t a town hall to voice grievances. Isn’t the point to hear what the other side has to say? As Dean said in his closing argument, we have to listen to our friends on the left and the right. Bipartisanship is quickly becoming a joke, but unyielding ideologies and unintelligent screaming won’t make progress. No one can hear reason when it’s being screamed across crowded halls.

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