By Jessica Cohea
If the Capitol Hill Gang (CHG) debate had any impact on the national argument, marijuana would be legal nationwide.
CHG held its annual spring debate on Tuesday, April 5. Two teams of five people presented facts, statistics and anecdotes to raise awareness about legalization of marijuana in the United States.
“It was shocking – beyond shocking – to see how much support the pro team had,” senior Brett Carmouché, CHG President, said.
Carmouché was also surprised when biblical literature professor Howard Van Dyke stepped into Wisner Auditorium wearing a tie-dyed T-shirt and a Rastafarian hat with dreadlocks pulled back in a ponytail.
“When he walked in, I cracked up,” Carmouché said. “I thought it was the most hilarious thing that has ever been done at a debate.”
It may have been out of the ordinary, but Van Dyke always has a purpose for his wild behaviors.
“He actually had a really good purpose for it – demonstrating the stereotype of the person who smokes marijuana,” junior Ryan Dykhouse, CHG Chief of Staff, said.
Dykhouse and Van Dyke were both panelists this semester. Van Dyke was accompanied by sophomore Annie Atwater, senior Brock Johnson, sophomore Matt Logan and freshman Eddie Saliba on the pro team. Dykhouse debated for the con side with political science professor Dr. David Claborn and sophomores Matt Van Dyke, Zach Bishop and Jessica DiSilvestro.
No winner was officially chosen after the debate ended. Carmouché said choosing a winning side is not important to these debates because CHG only wants to educate the students of Olivet. CHG does not submit results to anyone or any organization to add to the national debate, so a winner is irrelevant.
“It was obvious who the audience supported,” Dykhouse said. “If you went to the debate, you know who won.”
Dykhouse said the pro team won because they had “better lines of debate.”
“The pro side definitely had a lot of information on enforcement and how much it costs,” he said. “Annie Atwater had a lot of good points on the racism inherent in the enforcement of marijuana and how the African American community especially is discriminated against … Brock Johnson made some good, more philosophical arguments about how prohibition can lead to misuse and abuse of marijuana.”
With such a heated topic, the audience was getting fired up. It may have been a little too much, however.
“At times I thought it was a bit rude, because [the audience] was so loud and there was a lot of commentary that wasn’t necessary,” Carmouché said. “But you know what, that’s what it’s all about. People don’t come to Capitol Hill Gang debates for the formal debate society rules and timing, they come for the excitement, for the feisty argumentation between someone like Howie Van Dyke and Dr. David Claborn.”
The topics for both the fall and spring debates were chosen at the beginning of the fall semester. The fall debate covered the issue of religious freedom and was chosen because of the issues surrounding the Westboro Baptist Church during that time. Westboro was in the news at the end of 2010 because of their extreme anti-homosexual protests.
The spring debates do not usually focus on such an important and newsworthy topic. This debate was “loosely based” on Proposition 19, the initiative in California for the legalization of marijuana in that state, according to Dykhouse.
The debate continues on this issue all over the United States. CHG held this debate to inform ONU students so that they may be a more knowledgable body in the debate for or against legalization.