Students organize “Restoring Respect to Politics” event

Students gathered in the Great Hall for Restoring respect to Politics on Feb. 13. Photo by Merve Ozcan.

Students gathered in the Great Hall for “Restoring Respect to Politics” on Feb. 13. Photo by Merve Ozcan.

By Bianca Lopez

The American Constitution Society, Federalist Society and Stetson Democrats organized “Restoring Respect to Politics” on Feb. 13 in the Great Hall on the Gulfport campus. The event, now in its third year and recently made biannual, encourages law students to discuss controversial matters ranging from geopolitics to free speech to healthcare.

The 30 event participants each took a sticker to wear representing their political affiliation; red for Republican, blue for Democrat, dark green for Independent, yellow for Libertarian, and light green if they would prefer not to say. Tables featured coordinating stickers to guide participants on where to sit and allow for diversity within each group.

Student Maximillion Brown attended the event last year and said his passion for political discourse inspired him to return.

“I enjoyed the opportunity to discuss current political issues in a congenial and structured atmosphere,” Brown said. “I think that it’s important to speak to people with different ideologies, not because anyone is going to change their minds, but because it’s important for people who don’t feel like they have anything to contribute to the discussion to feel welcome to speak up, voice their concerns, and be acknowledged by society.”

The event welcomed the exchange of hot-button issues by providing possible topics for discussion on a screen in the front of the room. The sponsoring organizations request that participants act respectfully and without judgment, in order to allow everyone to feel they may speak freely.

“It surprised me that people were so quick to give an answer,” said Victoria Tamayo, student vice president of the Federalist Society. “When they had their minds made up, it doesn’t allow for conversation.”

Event organizers travelled from table to table with the goal of building bridges and finding common beliefs even within seemingly polarized groups.

“[Restoring Respect to Politics] helps me find new ways to approach my own values,” said Max Yarus, student president of the Federalist Society. “If you can agree on basic principles, then it’s easy to draw a path to what your final goal is.”

In the end, most groups were able to find common ground.

“People from completely opposite sides of the spectrum were respectful and they did actually find agreement on some issues,” Tamayo said.