Students clustered around tables in the “free speech zone” outside of the University Bookstore Thursday to discuss controversial issues and connect with people who hold different political perspectives.
Marketplace of Ideas, hosted by Young Americans for Liberty, was created to bring people together and encourage them to engage in political discussions.
It was comprised of various political clubs on campus, including the Cal State Long Beach chapters of Turning Point USA, College Democrats and Students for Life.
According to Jael Espinoza, senior political science and international studies major and YAL president, the groups planned the tabling event to raise awareness about political groups on campus.
“We want to let our student body and campus community know that there is intellectual diversity on campus… and we actually support it,” Espinoza said. “We want to engage with the community in a completely peaceful and lawful way.”
During the first hour of the event, Associated Students Inc. held a rally to protest the potential tuition increase for the 2018-19 school year.
As members of the Students for Quality Education rallied against a CSU tuition increase over a megaphone, the smaller political groups competed to attract as much attention as possible despite the volume.
“I like that they want less tuition while they’re upstaging me,” said Irene Bottros, a construction management major tabling with Turning Point USA. “But I think this was a coincidence. We don’t ask ASI if we can table out here, because that’s what we believe in — free speech everywhere.
In order to draw attention to their table amid noisy competition, Isaac Perez, a philosophy major and secretary for the YAL, spent time playing his guitar while tabling for the group. For Perez, the recent strikes in Syria were a major point to bring up with passersby.
“The goal is to bring awareness to about the overseas interventions that the U.S. is involved in [and]…to support the troops by keeping them here,” Perez said. “All this overseas stuff doesn’t work. A lot of money and a lot of lives lost.”
Perez discussed the Young Americans for Liberty’s campaign, “#SupportTheTroops by #BringingThemHome” to promote a non-interventionist foreign policy. The club will host an event Thursday April 26 where students can assemble care packages for deployed troops.
Treasurer for the CSULB College Democrats David Ochoa was on hand to grab the attention of students passing by. In addition to promoting their club, the campus Democrats aimed to gain support for increased community activism on behalf of Josh Newman, the democratic state senator currently facing a recall effort led by California Republicans.
“We’d love to keep doing [these events],” Ochoa said. “I think it’s definitely good for students to come around and see all the different ideas and groups on campus that they can get to know, to better understand where they line up themselves.”
Although the College Republicans were invited, the club did not attend the tabling event. According to Connor Tucholski, president of the club and senior majoring in history, most of the club’s activism goes on behind the scenes with a process he calls “deployments,” a broad-based term for in-person off-campus activism like canvassing efforts. Major efforts for the campus republicans include pushing against to repeal the gas tax, as well as leading the charge to recall Newman.
While members from the Young Democratic Socialists of America were in the quad at the same time as Marketplace of Ideas, they were present partly by coincidence, as they were there to support ASI and SQE’s Fund the CSU rally which aimed to gather signatures for a proposed ballot initiative to fund tuition for CSU students through an estate tax.
“We were invited to be a part of [the YAL] event,” said Chandler Hull, the graduating senior of International Studies and member tabling for the YDSA at the event. “But we also had an invite from the SQE to stop the tuition increase, and we thought this would be a far more beneficial place to position ourselves.”
Despite the difference in political beliefs and competing with the ASI event, the smaller clubs and student organizations representing differing political positions appeared to get along well together for the duration of the event.
“We haven’t experienced any outright animosity, but it does make me a bit nervous when we come out to table,” said Rachel Haering, an English major tabling with the Students for Life. ”We’ve found that when we structure our outreach events as polls and surveys [to] engage people…they’re happy to have a civil dialogue.”