Logic takes precedence in debate

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By VIRAJ PATEL Columnist

Decisions are made by those who show up.

I am writing this article straight from the Jan. 30 Students’ Association Senate meeting in the Lewis and Clark Room of the Student Union. Something I did not think would happen, just did. 

The Senate passed a resolution which will show our support for making South Dakota State University a smoke-free campus.

In the interest of full disclosure, I entered the meeting with the notion that I was going to vote against the resolution for a variety of reasons. Very infrequently have I ever been persuaded by an intelligent level of public debate, at least not at the collegiate level. But this Monday was different.

The resolution posed some ethical and political dilemmas for me. I wasn’t sure if asking people not to smoke would be an infringement of their rights. I wasn’t sure if, as an institution, SA had a right to ban smoking. The reality is the Senate does not have power to enforce, but we have a large influence on policy.

The solution to the ethical dilemma lay in the fact that smoking does harm to more people than it benefits. That was one change of heart for me.

The second was a political dilemma. Even though I represent the College of Arts and Sciences, being an international student, I do pledge allegiance to the international community. It just so happens that most smokers on campus are international students.

I heard decent arguments about the cultures in different nations, the relieving effect and sense of belonging that smoking gives to international students. But, eventually, I chose the utilitarian path and thought that voting for the benefits of the majority was the better option in this scenario.

This is what I love; great conversations between informed men and women, which foster a sense of statesmanship. This might be one of those few times I have seen the government decide based, not on partisanship, but on the persuasive nature of facts. 

On Monday, oratory was the leading factor in the room. The rhetoric was riveting — inspiring, even. Yes, the minority voice was hushed, yes, I was one of the people who voted against the minority and, yes, there will be times I will question this decision. But, in the end, this was the right decision for the people who suffer and have suffered from the side-effects of smoking.

Senators who I have spent the past eighteen weeks with brought their best cards to the table. Reason took precedence over emotion. Logic took precedence over politics. And rarely in these democratic institutions do we see a decision made because of an intelligent debate. On Monday, excellence was brought to the table, and heart-rate raising oratory made the difference.

Viraj Patel is a speech communication major and can be reached at [email protected]