Pizza and Politics talk dissects 'crises' in Syria


A series of complex derivative equations on a white board in room 152 of the Julian Science and Math Center played backdrop to a series of equally complex political conversations Wednesday night.
Twenty students along with three political science faculty members sat around tables pushed into a circle to share pizza and discussion at the first Pizza and Politics event of the semester.
 Tasked with discussing the crises ongoing civil war, use of chemical weapons, breaking off of Islamist groups and the developing humanitarian crisis in Syria as well as the U.S. government's reaction to the aforementioned issues that Professor of political science Bruce Stinebrickner deemed the "Syrian Crises." 
Representatives from various political groups on campus showed up for the discussion including senior Allison Orjala, head of the College Democrats, senior Ryan Heeb president of the Young Republicans and junior Rachel Burriss, president of the Young Americans for Liberty.
 Banter and political theorizing between the three professors: Stinebrickner, Deepa Prakash and Brett O'Bannon dominated the hour-long event with occasional questions from students and routine visits to the front table for more slices of pizza or glasses of soda.
 To set the event apart from a panel discussion on the Syrian crises held in the U.B. Ballroom last Friday, the professors attacked the topic from their various specialties.
 Prakash emphasized the international relations aspect of the crises and perceptions of the American government as it reacted and continues to react. She mentioned that the hesitancy on the government's behalf in entering into a conflict might hold unforeseen benefits with Iran.
 Jokingly, Prakash said she wished to play her metaphorical 'foreigner card' and offer her opinion that President Barack Obama's change in decision indicates good judgment in dealing with potentially dangerous entities in Syria.
 "Too often in American political discourse people are opposed to changing their minds," Prakash said. "Sometimes you say things you haven't thought through fully, it's a good thing to be able to change your mind."
 Meanwhile, Stinebrickner theorized that Obama had stepped into a situation replete with the Machiavellian idea of 'Fortuna' (known as fortune or luck).  He said the president benefitted from the timing of Putin's announcement that Russia would insert itself in the conflict should the nation see fit and even more so, Stinebrickner said Obama benefitted from the media's attention being pulled to the GOP rather than to his decision.
"So I guess if I'm Barack Obama I go buy a lottery ticket," Stinebrickner said.
 O'Bannon highlighted the magnitude of the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Syria as millions of residents are displaced or pushed into refugee camps.
 With advanced dialogue between the professors dominating the conversation, Heeb acknowledged that the event may have seemed overwhelming to students.
 "I think that people are sometimes scared of politics, they see this as intimidating," Heeb said. "I mean we have three great political science professors up here. And to try to go toe-to-toe with them and to try to challenge them, that's scary for a lot of people."
 He went on to discuss that the vastness of the subject matter may also deter students from learning about the conflict in Syria and engaging in discussion about it.
 "I think what is intimidating is the volume: how much there is and perhaps the perception that there is so much news about this, I don't even know where to begin," Heeb said.
Orjala acknowledged the challenge in garnering interest for events on campus, especially those that require students to think about and discuss their political opinions in a public forum.
 "People aren't going to put time into it if they don't have to," she said. The best way she knew to entice students into attending events was to provide food as bait.
"If it brings students out and they leave with a little more information about political events of today, I am happy to provide pizza," Orjala said.
Senior Clark Edwards admitted that she had been drawn in to the event because she was interested in dinner more so than political discourse.
 "I'm only here for the free pizza," Edwards said. "That's the only reason I go to anything."
 Party lines seemed did not seem to cause tension during the conversation, nor did they prevent six people, including Orjala and Heeb, from engaging in a discussion after the event about the state of the GOP and the flaws in Obamacare.
Surrounded by four other students and Stinebrickner, Orjala and Heeb hashed out their thoughts and invited others to comment, question and laugh about how none of them had taken the time to read the 1,000 word plus Obamacare proposal document.
Poised with hands on his head as he thought, Stinebrickner interjected occasionally, alternately playing devil's advocate, asking students to consider life without healthcare.
 At 8 p.m. room 152 of Julian remained empty, silent after having heard over an hour of fierce discussion. The numbers on the whiteboard remained scrawled out in complex formulas, as did the complex issues before the U.S. government.