On Sept. 9, Pitt-Greensburg had its first Faculty Fight Club of the semester, which explored the topics of the cost of higher education, drug legalization, and universal healthcare. Faculty Fight Club is a debate between faculty members to model respectful discourse for students.
Dr. John Prellwitz, Associate Professor of Communication and Humanities Division Chair; Dr. Bryan McCarthy, Visiting Instructor in Philosophy; Renee Kiner, MLS, Public Services Librarian; Dr. Geoff Wood, Assistant Professor of Sociology and Director of the Center for Applied Research; Dr. Olivia Long, Associate Professor of Biochemistry; and Dr. Bill Campbell, Part-time Instructor in History, participated in the debate.
Dr. Sheila Confer, Director of the Academic Village and Instructor in Theatre Arts and First-Year Studies, was the moderator.
The debate opened with a discussion of the rising costs of higher education.
Dr. Campbell finished his doctorate eleven years ago but is still around $77,000 in debt.
“It sucks,” Dr. Campbell said. “I can tell everyone here it’s not my paycheck [raising the costs of higher education].”
Dr. Campbell also encouraged students to look at the university’s budget each year to see how money is being spent, as student tuition is the university’s main source of income.
For this fiscal year, the university’s operating budget is $2.3 billion, according to Chancellor Patrick Gallagher.
Students who want to review the university system’s budget for any fiscal year can contact the Office of the Secretary of the Board of Trustees.
The faculty members were also asked if they support the legalization of recreational marijuana or other drugs, such as heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine.
Dr. Long was concerned with the lack of research on marijuana’s effects.
“As a scientist, I don’t think we’ve done enough research,” Dr. Long said. “We already know those [other drugs] kill, so legalizing them is like signing death certificates.”
Dr. Confer believes the classification of marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance, which has prevented it from being researched, was symptomatic of racism, rather than scientific concern.
“One of the reasons marijuana was made a Schedule I substance was to put people of color in jail,” Dr. Confer said.
Dr. McCarthy agreed with Dr. Confer.
“[By classifying marijuana as a Schedule I substance] Nixon was trying to get rid of people he doesn’t like – black people and hippies,” Dr. McCarthy said.
Dr. McCarthy asked how the government would handle the new, heightened strength of drugs, as well as synthetic drugs, that would not exist without the criminalization of marijuana.
“Can you put the toothpaste back in the tube?” Dr. McCarthy said. “We can’t just go back to [marijuana or other drugs] being legal because there’s all this shit.”
The final topic of discussion was universal healthcare.
Kiner previously worked as an insurance broker and believes the government should offer a public healthcare option.
“[Currently] you’re at the mercy of what your employer offers you,” Kiner said. “No one should go bankrupt because they’re sick.”
Dr. Prellwitz raised the issue of how the government would control spending on public healthcare.
“If you give people more care, they’ll live longer and need more care,” Dr. Prellwitz said.
The faculty did not have time to discuss women’s reproductive rights.
The next Faculty Fight Club will be Wednesday, Sept. 25 at 12 p.m. in Village Hall 188.
Faculty will explore the topics of gun violence, mental health, climate change, and immigration. Dr. Confer plans to hold monthly debates.