Arguments against socialism were presented to students and community members alike during a political discussion hosted by Binghamton University College Republicans on Monday night.

The event was held in Lecture Hall 9 and included a panel featuring George Phillips, candidate for New York’s 22nd congressional district seat in the U.S. House, Morgan Zegers, Young Americans Against Socialism (YAAS) founder and chief executive officer and Michael Vasquez, a political commentator. According to the Facebook event page, the event was open to the public with the aim of encouraging respectful dialogue on the topic.

The event was prompted by the continuous rise of socialism, according to John Restuccia, president of College Republicans and a junior majoring in political science. Restuccia said he expected people to leave the event with new knowledge on socialism.

“I hope that people not only got an understanding of the devastating effects of socialism, but how important a respectful, open dialogue is to have between both the right and left,” Restuccia wrote in an email.

Jesse Parsons, a senior majoring in economics, said he was excited to discover the College Republicans and attend this event.

“I began following politics over the summer, then I saw [the College Republicans] tabling on the Spine,” Parsons said. “It was nice meeting people with similar political views.”

Lacey Kestecher, president of the University’s Turning Point USA (TPUSA) chapter and a freshman majoring in business administration, said the primary objective of the event and TPUSA is to educate others on free speech, limited government and free markets through respectful discussion.

“When I started my TPUSA chapter, I didn’t think the pushback to this organization, which really looks to resemble our founding fathers’ mission for us as a country, would be so great and so negative,” Kestecher said. “I’ve realized now more than ever why our chapter is so necessary.”

When discussing the establishment of YAAS, Zegers said the spike in support of socialism from her generation is what prompted her to build the organization.

“[Socialists] are changing what freedom means to our generation,” Zegers said. “Freedom isn’t freedom from repressive government anymore.”

Zegers said her organization has been traveling and filming stories of people who have lived in countries run by socialism. By sharing these stories, Zegers aims to highlight the negative aspects of a socialist government.

“We’re putting their stories on social media,” Zegers said. “Our 2020 program starts in January and goes through December. Month by month, we will be breaking down different pro-socialist arguments by explaining why they’re wrong and why capitalism, the free market and entrepreneurship will find better solutions for the American people.”

Vasquez is an example of an American who has lived under socialism, specifically in Moscow.

“If it is such a great idea, why are people coming [to America] when we’re not socialist?” Vasquez said. “I can tell you why — because I lived it.”

Phillips said he also encouraged an open discussion on the topic, particularly among students.

“You are our future,” Phillips said during the panel. “From surveying the audience, it sounds like many of you are on what I would call the freedom side. This should be the case against socialism and for freedom. Others here might have questions, and that’s great. Let’s have the debate.”

Restuccia said the event was meant to serve as a precursor to a different one. On Nov. 18, the College Republicans will be hosting Arthur Laffer, who served as an economic advisor for former President Ronald Reagan and President Donald Trump. He recently won the presidential medal of freedom and is credited with creating the Laffer curve of economics.

Talia Chasen, a senior majoring in psychology, said she was excited to see College Republicans command a more active presence on campus.

“They are coming out of their hole this semester,” Chasen said. “I was happy to discover them. I align with their views, and I’m excited to learn more about what they have to offer the campus community.”

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Michael Vasquez is originally from Moscow. Vasquez actually only lived in Moscow temporarily, and the article has been updated. Pipe Dream regrets the error.