Frank Gunter, a professor of economics, left, and Anthony DiMaggio, a professor of political science, engage in a public debate on President Donald Trump’s first year in office Oct. 24 at Sinclair Auditorium. The debate was held by the Lehigh University Debate Society. (Ian Smith/B&W Staff)

Lehigh professors debate President Trump’s first-year policies


The Lehigh Debate Society hosted a debate between economics professor Frank Gunter and political science professor Anthony DiMiaggio on Oct. 24 in Sinclair Auditorium. Students packed the auditorium to listen to the professors spar over President Donald Trump’s administration and critical issues that face America.

The debate focused on an analysis of political policies and an evaluation of Trump’s first year in office. 

In a rebuke to the notion that Trump is a threat to democracy, Gunter reminded the audience that the candidate who had few political consultants, no family ties to politics and spent the least amount of money on his campaign won the election.

“This election was a victory for democracy,” Gunter said.

Reecha Patel, ’20, the co-president of the Lehigh Debate Society, said there is value in having these types of conversations about our society and our country.

“All of the board members agreed that we need to do more events on campus,” Patel said. “Our goal as a society is to have discussions about these important topics and current events, so the debate today reflects that well.”

Detail-oriented debate carried on for much of the event. The debate society proposed questions from a variety of fields, including healthcare, the travel ban and the possibility of Russian influence on the 2016 election.

“Does the United States want to be known as a country that welcomes immigrants from different countries as it historically has been known? Or do we want to be known as a country that engages in xenophobia and blanket stereotypes?” DiMaggio asked during the immigration portion of the debate.

Gunter stressed the “convoluted” nature of America’s tax code that hampers small businesses, while DiMaggio lamented how unfair and unusually costly American healthcare system is compared to the rest of the developed world.

While both agreed income inequality is of concern, Gunter said throughout America’s original revolution for “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” economic equality was never a guarantee.

DiMaggio countered that Trump’s tax plan will only accentuate “the record inequality in the United States,” citing that “by 2020, 80 percent of these tax cuts will be going to the top 1 percent of Americans.”

Ellen Schaaf, ’18, an economics major, said it is important to have the opportunity to hear two contrasting sides speak their minds in a civil manner about the future of the U.S.

“I wanted to see what ideas the debaters had for moving forward,” Schaaf said. “For a while, we had a campus that was very polarized, and it was hard to find the middle ground. This was a great way to get both ends of the spectrum.”

Some students said they attended the debate for the opportunity to hear two unfiltered opposing sides. 

“Personally, I gained a lot because I have been avoiding politics during the last year, so there was a lot I didn’t know,” Parker Ross, ’20, said. “I liked seeing two different viewpoints because the debaters were pretty opposed.”

The debate was a 5×10 event. First-years are required to attend at least five of these designated events during their first 10 weeks at Lehigh.

“I wanted to see what both sides brought to the argument because this is the most divisive president we’ve ever had,” Carter Duddy, ’21, said.

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  1. Infortunately at many colleges only one side is allowed to have an opinion.
    It is heartening to know that Lehigh allows all views to be heard and affords its’ students a chance to make an informed decision.

  2. Daniel DiSanto on

    We can create common sense rules and procedures regarding immigration and still be known as a country that welcomes immigrants. The problem is that we have become a country where everything has to be in black and white. One side wants to let everyone in, no questions asked, and the other side wants to exclude every person of a particular group, no exceptions. The two groups under fire right now are Muslims and Mexicans, but I’m sure this list would expand in time.

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