Penn professors, leaders debate "what's at stake"


The discussion, which occurs every four years and featured a six-person panel, took place in Houston Hall’s Golkin Room


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Political science professor Rogers Smith speaks at yesterday’s panel
discussion on the 2012 presidential election.

Photo by Jordan Huynh


A panel of experts wants you to know there’s more to this election than just the economy.

On Thursday night, the Alice Paul Center & The Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Program held a discussion outlining “what’s at stake” in the upcoming presidential election. The event, which occurs every four years in concurrence with the presidential elections, took place in Houston Hall’s Golkin Room.

The six-person panel included professors Mary Frances Berry, Rogers Smith, Nancy Hirschmann and Toorjo Ghose as well as the Executive Director of the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations Rue Landau and Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies lecturer Carol Tracy.

Females dominated the audience, but a number of male spectators listened attentively in the standing-room-only crowd of about 70.

Luz Marin, program coordinator of the GSWS Program and the Alice Paul Center — a research center for the interdisciplinary study of women, gender and sexuality — said that although “these topics are important to women especially,” the panel discussion targeted all audiences and addressed topics significant to all potential voters.

“We want to get beyond the sound bites,” Co-Director of the Alice Paul Center Demie Kurz said. “We gathered this panel based on their expertise in the subject.”

The discussion touched on issues like immigration, same-sex marriage, the economy, women’s rights, reproductive rights and healthcare, among others.

Ghose, an assistant professor of Social Policy and Practice, placed stress on the interconnectedness of all the topics in this election. “The poor will be most affected by this election,” Ghose said, “but LGBT people are poor and people of color are poor. All aspects of these issues are intertwined.”

Many of the panelists emphasized the importance of this election for women and LGBT rights. They believed that victories already won for women and LGBT people might be lost with a change in the administration. Marriage equality and current abortion laws would both be at risk, the panelists said.

The discussion also touched on the current battles for the availability of contraception, an issue that especially impacts young people.

In addition, panelists spoke of the consequences should Obama’s Affordable Care Act be repealed. For example, pregnancy might no longer be insured by health care companies, which could consider pregnancy a “pre-existing condition.”

Cat Peirce, College freshman and Class Board SAS Chair, said she is most concerned about social issues this election season. “I’m in college and so I have the luxury of not necessarily having to find a job right now.” She continued to say that she is a “huge advocate for equality of sexuality and for women’s rights.”

Carol Tracy, executive director of the Women’s Law Project and lecturer in the GSWS Department, said “the voices of women and the voices of progressive men will make the difference” in this election.

In reference to the impact young people can make, Tracy said the most important thing is to go to the polls. “Voting is a right … that shouldn’t be taken for granted,” Tracy said. “We can affect our future. We can affect our destiny.”

This article has been updated to accurately reflect Professor Ghose’s words. He referred to “people of color” in his article, rather than “colored people,” as it appeared in the previous version.

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