Debate club discusses issues of immigration

Alice Zhang, Contributing Writer

With recent presidential campaigns bringing attention to the many issues surrounding immigration, NYU’s The Review and Debates club hosted a debate asking, “Does Immigration Weaken American Individualism?” The club’s second debate for the semester, part of a series of five throughout the year, featured Professor Lawrence Mead discussing the controversial issue.

Unlike other debate societies, NYU’s club doesn’t compete against other schools. Stern junior and Vice President of the club Aaron Sorochinsky talked about the club’s purpose in the greater NYU community.

“We host debates for and by NYU students and faculty,” Sorochinsky said. “On both sides of the motion, we have two student debaters against a student debater and an NYU professor. Our debates are focused on not being purely political and giving a voice to every department or interest that an NYU student could have.”

One issue discussed in the immigration debate was the influx of immigrants from collectivist societies in Latin America and East Asia and the implications of such an influx. Kristijan Dino Ilievski, a CAS junior and the president of The Review and Debates, summed up the matter from both the affirmative and negative side.

“The supporting side, which Professor Mead was on, talked about how mass immigration threatens individualism,” Ilievski said. “Immigrants don’t assimilate fast enough to take on a trait known as ‘American individualism,’ eventually replacing individualistic areas of the U.S. with collectivism. The opposition states that the groups aren’t necessarily representative of the communities they originate from since they have individualistic traits and desires.”

This in-depth focus aims to make the debate more informative for the attendees, while the format allows for participation from audience. Gallatin junior Kirsten Rischert-Garcia attested to the educational nature of the series.

“It’s important to be discussing these issues,” Rischert-Garcia said. “Although both my parents immigrated to the U.S., my mother from Germany and my father from the Philippines, I didn’t really have a clear stance on immigration, so I’m happy I came to hear the different arguments. This helped me better formulate my own opinion.”

Traditionally, debates are in the format of opening statements, questions for and from both sides, questions from the audience, and closing statements. Timed interjections are allowed during all phases of the debate except for the closing statements and all participants are given equal speaking time. While this debate followed that format, there was also room for the audience to ask questions.

The club also offers an online publication called The Review to supplement each debate.

Even though Tuesday’s debate focused on the specific problem of immigration, the series takes on a range of key issues. The first debate featured Professor Alastair Smith and covered nuclear proliferation among countries. The club’s next debate on Oct. 27 will feature President John Sexton on the topic of religion and whether or not it has a net positive in history.

Email Alice Zhang at [email protected].