Friday, October 28, 2016

[168] MTSU GSA hosting Oct. 27 (today) and Nov. 4 ‘Prep Your Vote’ lectures

MTSU’s Graduate Student Association invites the campus community to its final two lectures — including one today (Thursday, Oct. 27) — to educate voters before the Nov. 8 election.

The purpose of “Prep Your Vote: Election Education Series” is to persuade voters to refocus their votes “around the issues and implications of this unpopular, yet most influential presidential election” between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump.

Today’s lecture will be held from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. in the Parliamentary Room on the second floor of the Student Union. The featured speaker is Dr. Robb McDaniel, political science professor, who will give a lecture titled “Get This Party Started: What the 2016 Election Reveals about Democrats, Republicans and the Changing American Electorate.”

McDaniel will explore how the 2016 election reflects “a depending polarization of the major parties and the difficulty that the Republican coalition (older, whiter) has had in competing against the Obama coalition (younger, browner) in national elections. Politics is a ‘long game’ and elections are less personal than they are institutional.”

Then from 6 to 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 4, Dr. Mary Evins, history professor and director of the American Democracy Project at MTSU, will give a lecture titled “Expanding the Vote — and Steps Backward: Forming a More Perfect Union Requires that We Vote.”

Evins will discuss voting as a call to civic action, the implications of Supreme Court appointments and “rigged elections.”

GSA reminds citizens that early voting is open until Nov. 3 for those wanting to avoid the possibility of long lines on Election Day Nov. 8. For more information about early voting locations go to

[167] MTSU debaters stick to issues at mock presidential debate

Three members of the MTSU Blue Raider Debate Team put their argumentative skills on display for the public recently during a mock presidential debate featuring the top three contenders for the White House.

Student debaters researched and presented the platform positions of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, GOP nominee Donald Trump and Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson.

Representing Clinton was junior Abigail Barnes, an English and communication studies major, while freshman political science major Christopher Cowherd stood in for Trump and Alex Lempin, a senior communication studies major, argued Johnson’s positions. The candidates answered a variety of questions ranging from energy to the economy.

Held Oct. 20 in the State Farm Room in the Business and Aerospace Building, the “Think Before You Vote” event was hosted by the MTSU chapter of the Pi Kappa Delta national speech and debate association and co-hosted by Blue Raider Debate, the League of Women Voters of Murfreesboro/Rutherford County and the MTSU Graduate Student Association.

Debate team coach Patrick Richey said that unlike the real campaigns with the constant name-calling and character assassinations, the mock debate intentionally prohibited the candidates from using such tactics and forced them to focus on real issues.

“We put a lot of work into this debate,” said Lempin. “We’ve written speeches, rehearsed them and practiced this debate a couple of times.”

Lempin said such mock debates can be helpful to voters looking for insights about the candidate’s actual positions rather than the latest poll numbers and the hyper-partisanship and negativity that mainstream media has tended to highlight excessively.

“I think this is what college is all about, in educating the public in a way that everybody can understand and benefit,” he said.

Cody Lester, vice president of the Graduate Student Association, served as moderator, while Drs. Kaylene Gebert, a professor of communication studies and organizational communication, and Robb McDaniel, a political science professor, shared their insights and context after the discussion.

While both pointed to the intense nastiness of the current campaign in relation to modern politics, particularly in regard to the Clinton and Trump camps, the professors reminded the 120-plus attendees that political campaigns in the aftermath of the nation’s founding also had plenty of venom, with duels not unheard of to settle scores.

“Politics has been a pretty rough business and you have to have a pretty thick skin,” Gebert said.

McDaniel pointed out that “voting is about power … not just personalities,” which is why the major political parties put so much time, money and effort into campaigns. It’s critical for voters to stay knowledgeable about issues at election time and beyond, he said.

[166] MTSU-Blackman High partnership highlighted at LEAD conference

Collegiate academy offers college-level courses at Blackman campus

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The partnership between Blackman High School in Murfreesboro and Middle Tennessee State University in the creation of the Blackman Collegiate Academy was highlighted Monday (Oct. 24) at the 2016 LEAD Conference sponsored by the Tennessee Department of Education.

MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee and Deb Sells, vice president for student affairs, joined Blackman Principal Leisa Justus and Academy Dean Ken Reed and others from both institutions to present at the conference, which allowed secondary and post secondary administrators from across Tennessee to share ideas and best practices.

MTSU was a founding partner in Blackman High School’s new Collegiate Academy when it was formed in January 2015. The academy offers college-level courses on the Blackman campus and MTSU has assisted in development of its academic enrichment programs.

McPhee compared the academy with the university’s Honors College, which also affords high-achieving university students an “Ivy League experience” on the MTSU campus.

“Our partnership with Blackman has allowed many of its best students to take a closer look at MTSU as a college choice,” McPhee said. “Our university was able to bring many of its resources to the table to accomplish the goals of the academy.”

Sells said MTSU saw a year-over-year increase of 13 percent in Blackman student enrollment after the first year of the partnership.

“Blackman is MTSU’s No. 1 partner in dual-enrollment learning,” Sells said. “Not only are we welcoming more Blackman students, but many of them also have higher ACT scores and GPAs.”

Justus told educators about how the academy has allowed the high school to build upon what it calls “the Blackman experience.”

“Even as high schools, we are in a competitive environment to enroll and retain high-achieving students,” she said. “The academy allows these students the choice to stay at their home (zoned) school rather than seeking enrichment opportunities elsewhere.”