VCR and VCD Go Head-to-Head on Minimum Wage


Donald Hall, Senior Editor

Members of the Vanderbilt College Republicans (VCR) and Vanderbilt College Democrats (VCD) took to the virtual last week, participating in a time-honored tradition of both organizations: the annual policy debate. The debate, moderated by our very own Managing Director Isabella Randle, centered around the following statement: “Resolved: the United States federal government should raise the minimum wage to fifteen dollars an hour.” 

College Dem’s president Devon Shewell and Vice President Courtenay Roche took the affirmative side, while VCR Vice President Shane Mumma and club member Scott Kim argued against the proposed increase. While this marked the first virtual debate in the series’ history, the audience turnout hovered around forty students, and the debaters performed just as if they were engaged face-to-face. 

As the affirmative team, the College Dems presented their opening statement first, highlighting a few salient points that would be brought up numerous times: the current seven dollar and twenty five cents an hour federal minimum wage is not enough for an individual, much less a family, to live on when adjusted to a standard forty-hour work week, and the current cycles of poverty that are so prevalent among the members of minority communities will never be broken without a severe increase in this federally-mandated rate. 

College Republicans followed this up by introducing their main points. Chief among these guiding principles were that the states, rather than the federal government, were much more knowledgeable and well-equipped to determine an adequate minimum wage, and that a federal raise in this standard would negatively affect the economies of less populated states at a disproportionate rate, putting many small businesses in a serious bind. 

While these were far from the only topics of discussion in the civil yet lively back and forth affair, they were used to build the arguments that each side stressed in an effort to win support from the student viewers. After the formal part of the debate was over, a few of these audience members were given a chance to ask either side a question, while a poll was taken to determine which side came out on top. 

The three questions and their results are as follows:

“What did you think BEFORE THE START of this debate?”

  • Federal minimum wage SHOULD be raised to $15 an hour – 42.3% (11 votes) 
  • Federal minimum wage SHOULD NOT be raised to $15 an hour – 57.7% (15 votes)

“What do you think NOW?” 

  • Federal minimum wage SHOULD be raised to $15 an hour – 38.5% (10 votes)
  • Federal minimum wage SHOULD NOT be raised to $15 an hour – 61.5% (16 votes) 

“Who do you think won this debate?”

  • Vanderbilt College Democrats – 36% (9 votes)
  • Vanderbilt College Republicans – 64% (16 votes) 

With what seemed to be a pretty equal distribution of members from each organization among the audience, the exit poll showed one mind changed throughout the debate and left the bragging rights solely in the hands of GOP debaters.  

When asked about his thoughts following the debate, VCD President Devon Shewell explained that “engaging in debate and dialogue with VCR is always an entertaining and interesting time. Although there are certainly substantial differences between the beliefs and values of our organizations, coming together is a great experience to find our commonality.” 

VCR Vice President Shane Mumma also provided the following statement: “I am exceptionally proud of the hard work and preparation Scott and I put into our debate against the Vandy Democrats—we had a great time debating Devon and Courtney and were honored that the audience chose VCR as the winners of the debate (and the ones who changed the most minds). Scott and I truly felt the love and support of all our engaged members behind us that night. If one thing is clear, it is that VCR’s commitment to civility, bipartisanship, and the democratic process is stronger than ever. We look forward to continuing our time-honored tradition of debating VCD well into the future.”