With the 2012 election right around the corner, the Auburn University Program Council hosted a political roundtable discussion event, "Hot plates, hot topics," to encourage students to participate in an open dialogue about pressing political issues.
Approximately 55 students gathered to eat pasta and talk politics. Dr. Steven Brown, associate professor of political science, gave students an introduction and topics to consider for their discussions. Students at tables of five to seven were then expected to participate in a healthy, open political discussion.
Following small group discussion, Brown opened the floor to allow the students to participate in a large discussion. Brown asked a question and moderated the discussion as students, one at a time, shared their values, beliefs and opinions on the designated topic. Once discussion on a topic dwindled, he allowed students to choose another subject for the group discussion.
"It was fun and enlightening," says Kent Aldenderfer, a senior studying history. "I was very surprised at how much common ground we had with our opposition and, conversely, how different values lead us to very different conclusions about policy," he says.
Jorge Gonzalez-Corona, a junior studying political science, agreed the event was a success. "I heard viewpoints that I hadn't heard before and really enjoyed the political discussion that went on," he says.
"It was refreshing to take the time to discuss important political issues with those who hold different views in a respectful way. In our increasingly acrid partisan political climate, it is often too easy to become stuck in a feedback loop, only considering the positives of your own viewpoint while attacking a caricature of the opposition," says Andrew Hill, a senior studying physics.
"This was a much needed opportunity to step away from that and really think critically," Hill says.
Students are among the Americans who will take their political beliefs to the polls on Nov. 6, 2012, to formally voice their opinions about the future of the country on Election Day.