In order to have a safe place to share personal beliefs and ideals, BYU-Hawaii students created Contemporary Issues Debate Association (CIDA), a club that meets together weekly to discuss political and social issues.
“We really wanted it to be a place where anyone could come and express their opinions freely,” said Eric Munton, president and founder of CIDA.
“Here at BYU-Hawaii, ideally you can be open in your beliefs, but there is a certain stigma that comes with holding different beliefs because of the dominate LDS faith here on campus.”
Emma Andrew, a senior from Tennessee in business finance and co-founder of CIDA, added, “Holding a belief contrary to what is generally preserved to be right in the LDS faith definitely can make voicing your opinion difficult.”
Munton, a junior in accounting from California, said the presidency hopes the club could be “a place where we could build off one another because we all come from different backgrounds, beliefs, and experiences. In reality, none of us have all the answers and we need to recognize that.”
“Being a BYU campus, which is predominately conservative, I was honestly surprised by the number of liberal voices here on campus,” said Munton. “I am grateful for those voices. Going into the club, I would have considered myself more of a staunch conservative, but since the club has started I have become more moderate.”
Spencer Weenig, vice president of activities of the club, identified himself as a liberal and said, “CIDA allows for open discussion of topics the majority avoid and helps to promote open-mindedness of others’ opinions.”
Weenig joined CIDA in Spring 2017 and later became a presidency member for the Fall 2017 Semester. He said, “Some people think CIDA is simply a debate club. We see CIDA as a forum to openly discuss and share opinions.”
Andrew said, “A true form of intelligence is being able to hold two different viewpoints in your mind at once.”
The club dedicates one night a week to a single topic. It opened the semester with a discussion on gun control and has since had discussions on feminism, free speech, healthcare, and even conspiracy theories.
Not only is the goal of the Contemporary Issue Debate association to get people out of their own echo chambers, but also to increase unconditional love and respect for one another despite a difference of opinions and views, explained Munton. “Today’s politics have gotten so divisive that we don’t see people anymore but ideas, and we attack these people as if they were ideas.
Andrew said, “The club has brought people together to share beliefs and ideals with one another who normally wouldn’t come together.”
Explaining how the club was founded, Munton said, “Emma and I would always talk about politics and one day we were like, ‘Hey, we should start something so we can talk about this with other people and share ideas.’ So we did it.”
Munton and Andrew started the club in the Spring 2017 Semester after hearing Elder Oaks’ commencement speech to the Winter 2017 BYU-Hawaii graduates, in which he said Latter-day Saints shouldn’t be discouraged from “participating in discussions, debates
At first the club attempted to be more formal with the goal of being a place to debate. But for fear that a debate-like setting would make students feel less comfortable expressing their opinions, Munton and Andrew said they focused on making it a safe place where students could freely express their ideas.
“Since we have mostly the same people attending each week, we have noticed that as a whole we have become more respectful for each other’s opinions. People have become more open and understanding to differing beliefs,” said Munton as he explained the difference the club has made.
Weenig added, “All are welcome to come and don’t need to worry that they aren’t strong debaters. People will benefit from just coming and listening to the discussion of current social events.”
CIDA meets every Tuesday at 8:30pm in GCB 182. Munton said everyone is welcome to come, no matter their political beliefs.