Student debate tackles minimum wage, safe spaces, ISIS

Natalia Sperry

Colorado State University political groups debated current policy issues Thursday evening in an effort to cultivate political discourse. 

Three people standing.
Peter Seel (left), Ethan Burshek (middle), and Isabel Brown (right), participated in a CSU political debate held in the LSC on Oct. 26, 2017. Each debater shared their views on a number of topics relating to the economy, immigration, health care, and war. (Colin Shepherd | Collegian)

Ethan Burshek from the Young Americans for Liberty, PJ Seel from Rams for Progress and Sara Jane Andreas from College Republicans gathered in the Lory Student Center North Ballroom to discuss current political issues in economics, domestic policy and foreign affairs at a student debate hosted by YAL. 


Devon Johnson, the chair of CSU’s chapter of YAL, said that debates such as the one held Thursday are important to democratic societies. 

“I think that this is absolutely a quintessential piece of living in a free society that people can get up on a stage and just start talking and can … advocate their viewpoints to the people,” Johnson said. 

Isabel Brown, the speaker of the senate for the Associated Students of CSU, moderated the debate.

“My hope for tonight is that we just create healthy dialogue and conversation about the differences in opinion that we have,” Brown said. “I think something that’s really lacking from our generation most of the time is that we fail to have productive conversations about why our differences make us stronger, and that’s why we’re here.”

Minimum Wage

In response to Brown’s question about whether or not the minimum wage should be increased, Burshek said that the minimum wage as a whole is detrimental to the labor market. 

“Minimum wage laws take a wrecking ball to the whole (economic) system,” Burshek said. “Small entrepreneurs and start-ups often cannot afford the minimum wage, severely hampering their ability to grow and thrive. Therefore, not only should we refrain from raising the minimum wage, (but) we should abolish it altogether.” 

Man speaking.
Ethan Burshek, a member of Young Americans for Liberty, speaks during the political debate held in the LSC on Oct. 26, 2017. (Colin Shepherd | Collegian)

Andreas agreed that the minimum wage is detrimental to small business, citing her father’s own struggles as a small business owner. 

Seel argued that the current minimum wage is not a sustainable wage and said that automation will make this increasingly relevant in the economic system.

“We’re going to have to move to a point where we see not a minimum wage, but really a minimum income,” Seel said.


Andreas argued that this would move the current economic system more towards socialism.

“A minimum wage is not American, it’s not capitalist and it does not create innovation,” Andreas said. “If you have a minimum income … you’re going to do the bare minimum to earn your mandated wage.”

Safe spaces on campus 

Burshek argued that, while private universities are free to establish such spaces if they so choose, public institutions do not have this same right. 

“For a publicly funded or state university to sanction safe spaces is, and should remain, illegal under the First Amendment, which decrees that speech in this country is free for all,” Burshek said. 

Woman speaking.
Sara Andreas, the president of College Republicans at CSU, speaks during the political debate held in the LSC on Oct. 26, 2017. (Colin Shepherd | Collegian)

Andreas said that such safe spaces directly conflict with the right to free speech.

“When we are uncomfortable and our views are challenged, we are forced to grow and accept the notion that our opinions aren’t the only opinions,” Andreas said.

Seel said safe spaces are necessary because they are areas meant for people to be respectful of one another.

“We do need to have spaces that are very much available to all kinds of voices,” Seel said. “The intention of what a safe space is supposed to be is to prevent hateful comments from being put out there. If a university does want to use safe spaces, whether public or private, it should have the ability to.”

Foreign Policy 

In the scope of foreign policy, conservative and progressives both said that a formal declaration of war on ISIS is unnecessary.  

Andreas argued that there is no need for the United States to declare war with ISIS collapsing.

“Just a few days ago, coalition forces declared the complete liberation of the capital of the so-called Caliphate,”Andreas said. “With results like this, declaring war on ISIS is just an empty gesture … the only action that should be taken to defeat ISIS should be direct military action.”

Man speaking.
Peter Seel, the president of Rams for Progress at CSU, speaks during the political debate held in the LSC on Oct. 26, 2017. (Colin Shepherd | Collegian)

Seel agreed that a formal declaration of war is defunct and would only legitimize ISIS.

“Abraham Lincoln never declared war on the Confederacy because declaring war is a legitimizing action,” Seel said. “Now that ISIS has left, it is up to the U.S. to properly help rebuild the Iraqi state. If we don’t do it, I don’t believe there’s anyone else who has the capacity to do that.”

While the Burshek agreed that America should not declare war on ISIS, he asked Andreas and Seel why it is always the United States’ issue to solve the world’s problems.

“We’re not the nanny of the world … We are our own country,” Burshek said. “ISIS is not a threat to the United States. They are oceans away in a land-locked war with no navy.”

Burshek also said that the war with ISIS is a religious and ideological war fought between sects of Islam and that, as a secular state, the United States has no business participating.

Following the debate, Larson Ross, senior political science major and representative of the Young Democratic Socialists, a new left-wing organization on campus, said the event was unchallenging.

“A lot of the views expressed don’t line up with what the majority of Americans believe,” Ross said. “Nobody was talking about any kind of perspective that actually matters to most working people or to students.” 

Collegian reporter Natalia Sperry can be reached at or on Twitter @Natalia_Sperry.