By Steve Vivona
St. John’s students from all sides of the political spectrum
came together at the Kelleher Center on St. John’s University’s
Staten Island campus October 20 for a spirited debate on the
crucial issues facing the country in this year’s Presidential
election. The debate, which was organized with assistance from St.
John’s College, the College of Professional Studies and the
University Freshman Center, gave students representing the three
major parties a chance to air their views on topics ranging from
the war on terror to economic issues at home.
Dr. Azzedine Layachi, Associate Professor in Government and
Politics, gave students the necessary academic preparation for the
debates, and Dr. Kelly Rocca, Assistant Professor in Speech,
Communication Sciences and Theatre, prepared students for their
oral arguments. Approximately 125 people attended the event which
was governed by similar rules as the Presidential and Vice
Presidential debates, allowing students to answer a pre-selected
question and then allowing time for a rebuttal from the opposing
parties. Students were not given the questions in advance of the
debate. There was also a brief period for audience members to ask
The student debaters focused on issues from their classroom
discussions and answers resulting from a questionnaire given to
students participating in the "Rock the Vote" campaign conducted by
Student Government. Through this questionnaire students on the
Staten Island campus were able to identify the issues and concerns
they felt were of greatest importance to them. The results of this
questionnaire were discussed among the debaters, administrators and
faculty who took an active role in crafting the event.
Eliana Pintor, a Graduate Assistant in the Executive Vice
President’s office on the Staten Island campus, served as one of
the debate moderators and noted she was very proud of all the
participants. “Overall I think everyone did a great job.” Ms.
Pintor added she was happy to see students from all different age
ranges participate. She observed that issues dealing with homeland
security and the economy seemed to dominate the debate.
Student debater Christopher Hazen, representing the Republican
party, thought audience questions were legitimate and well
prepared. Fellow debater Manny Vizzotti was pleased at the large
turnout despite the fact the debate was held the same evening as
the final game of the American League Championship Series. “It’s
very satisfying to see so many people who are concerned about the