Students gather for State of the Union address viewing

Members of the Pitt Political Science Association invited students and faculty to watch President Trump’s state of the Union address at a viewing party in Posvar. (Photos by Issi Glatts | Assistant Visual Editor)

While Pitt College Republicans and Pitt College Democrats hosted separate State of the Union viewing parties, Pitt’s Political Science Student Association held an event appealing to students of any political association.

Around 20 students gathered in Posvar Hall Tuesday evening for a viewing party, hosted by PSSA, of President Donald Trump’s 2018 State of the Union address. Jonathan Merker, a junior studying politics and philosophy and president of PSSA, said the event functioned more as an academic gathering than a partisan one.

Pitt students watch President Donald Trump give the State of the Union address in Posvar. (Photo by Issi Glatts | Assistant Visual Editor)

“We think that our role is to complement the political science department,” Merker said. “We just felt the need to throw it together … for people that aren’t necessarily that partisan, we thought that we would have a viewing party for them.”

In his speech, Trump spoke on topics including veteran care, unemployment rates and prison reform. One of his main points was the recently passed Republican tax plan, which he said “enacted the biggest tax cuts and reforms in American history.”

He also discussed his plan for immigration policy reform, which he said is a four-part plan intended to be a fair compromise across partisan lines. The first part of the plan extends a path to citizenship to 1.8 million “dreamers,” undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. According to Trump, those who “meet education and work requirements, and show good moral character,” will be eligible to eventually become citizens.

The plan then urges full border security, including the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. The third point of Trump’s immigration plan aims to end the “visa lottery,” replacing it with a “merit-based” immigration system. Trump claims the visa lottery, “randomly hands out green cards without any regard for skill, merit or the safety of our people.” However, immigrants who come to the U.S. by the lottery system also must undergo vetting.

“It is time to reform these outdated immigration rules, and finally bring our immigration system into the 21st century,” Trump said. “These four pillars represent a down-the-middle compromise, and one that will create a safe, modern and lawful immigration system.”

Kaleb Knowlton, a junior studying political science and business manager for PSSA, said he doesn’t think many students watch the State of the Union address. He also said the group atmosphere and viewing availability could incentivize people to watch the address.

“As much as I like to think that people would actually go home and stream it for themselves, I think a lot of people don’t,” Knowlton said.

Jalissia Haynes, a sophomore studying politics and philosophy, takes notes on Trump’s speech during the State of the Union address Tuesday night. (Photo by Issi Glatts | Assistant Visual Editor)

Knowlton said he strongly disagreed with what seemed to be Trump’s “reauthorization of torture” in regards to illegal enemy combatants.

“That really struck me as a pretty big civil rights abuse that could possibly be reauthorized,” Knowlton said. “I’m not entirely sure whether or not that’s what he did, but it sounded to me like that may be what he was intending.”

Dillon Shuster, a first-year studying statistics, said he went because he has always been interested in politics. He also wanted to hear what Trump would say in his State of the Union address.

He wasn’t satisfied by what he heard from the president, though, because he didn’t think Trump evenly addressed everything he’s done.

“I’m kind of sad with it,” Shuster said. “He’s highlighting all the things that he did that are positive, that are just the minority. He’s not highlighting all the people who were pushed out of the way.”

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