‘We The Students’ tackles Iraq, other issues

The Destino 2008 forum may have taken place on Sunday night, but the debates on the Coral Gables campus certainly didn’t stop then.

It happened on a much smaller scale, but with the cameras rolling the 20-member crew hand-made their own history as well.

The Open Student Television Network, a 24/7 worldwide channel for student-produced programming, launched its newest debate show, “We the Students,” in front of a live audience at the School of Communication on Sept. 10.

“As an organization representing students, we’re tired of what the media wants us to think,” said Prashant Chopra, CEO of OSTN. “We’re the voice of a demographic, the voice of a people who are not yet sold out.”

The 25-minute interactive debate program features university student debaters from across the country arguing over domestic and foreign issues affecting our world today. Students nationwide can watch the program on the Internet and interact with other viewers in a live chat room. They can also actively submit questions to the debaters during the program, which are selected during commercial breaks. UM students can tune in to the program live via UMTV, the university’s cable channel.

“The goal of ‘We The Students’ is to help bring our communities across the nation together into a common forum,” said Dan Kaslow, co-executive producer. “It is an exciting medium which will help make our world a little smaller. With the 2008 elections around the corner, such a dialogue between students is necessary.”

This pilot episode, moderated by CBS 4 anchor and UM alumnus Elliot Rodriguez, pitted four UM and FIU students, representing the College Democrats and College Republicans, against each other over how private enterprise affects American defense.

However, with the debate taking place on the eve of the sixth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, many of the show’s subtopics, such as the Patriot Act, the role of the media in the War in Iraq and human rights abuses in Guantanamo Bay, demonstrated how much the content of discussion in Washington has shifted since that day.

“We’re fighting a different kind of war now,” said Junaky Robaina, the FIU representative from the College Republicans.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio made a special appearance for the show’s opening and closing remarks. A Democratic candidate for president, he also addressed questions from audience members after the program.

“These are better than some of the exchanges I’ve seen in Congress,” smiled Kucinich as he shook each of the debaters’ hands. “Young Americans are contributing greatly to improve the quality of our democracy. This is why student debates are critical.”

Some of the audience members also agreed with Kucinich’s assessment.

“I’m impressed that something like this, where students really want to listen to each other, can actually exist,” said Kate Koza, a junior. “I think this show has the potential to really grow.”

“We The Students” plans on airing 12 more episodes throughout the year.

“We’re just getting started,” said Chopra.

Joanna Suarez may be contact at j.suarez15@umiami.edu.