Hot-button issues from gun control and presidential powers to National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden were topics Monday at the University of North Georgia’s Politically Incorrect Club’s “Constitution Day.”
This year’s event primarily featured a panel discussion among two students and two faculty members who debated various topics submitted by attendees at the Gainesville campus.
“It’s to help students learn more about the U.S. Constitution and their constitutional rights,” said Douglas Young, UNG faculty member and head of the club. “It’s wonderful when young people learn and become active participants in our government.”
During the discussion, the panel tackled questions such as:
- Is NSA leaker Edward Snowden a hero or a criminal?
- How far does personal privacy extend? Does the government have the right to collect phone and email data?
- What is the role of religion in our society and in Middle Eastern conflicts?
- How much power should the president have?
- Is our Second Amendment right to bear arms in danger? How far should gun control laws go?
Roughly 40 people attended and many students were given co-curricular credit or extra credit in some classes. Voter registration forms also were handed out to students who had not registered.
Members of the Disabled American Veterans were present to answer questions, too.
“Constitution Day” has been held annually on the campus since former Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia helped pass congressional provisions in 2004 requiring publicly funded schools to provide educational programs encouraging students to gain a better understanding of the Constitution.
During last year’s program, students and members of the Politically Incorrect Club read the entire Constitution aloud and the campus symphonic band played a selection of patriotic songs. Along with the discussion, this year’s event started with a rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” by Todd Childers, followed by a recognition of veterans and active-duty members of the military.
The club itself began in the late 1990s as the Democrats/Republicans Club to encourage bipartisan debate among students, but the name was changed a few years later to better promote the club, though the purpose remains the same.
“It’s like a political debate club without all the mudslinging,” club member Lauren Neiheisel said.
Aside from “Constitution Day,” the club hosts field trips to the state Capitol in March to see the legislature and sometimes to meet the governor.
“Everyone’s opinion is valued (in the club),” member Megan Wade said. “It’s fun, informative and it gives students more involvement.”