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By Joshua DeJong and Zoe Deal

Conservative views, college tuition, the environment, abortion.  Republican state Sen. Doug Ericksen’s town hall meeting on Thursday, Oct. 12 at Western covered these controversial topics and more.

A Facebook event posted by the Whatcom Young Democrats called for students to protest against Ericksen and the student clubs hosting the event. The Young Democrats of Western came with questions, not signs.

“We want to protest by being here, by actually asking questions, rather than just standing outside and yelling,” junior Skyla Sorenson said.

Senator Ericksen, a Western alumnus, said he thought the dialogue went very well.  He said he was proud of the way community members handled themselves.

“There is nothing wrong with a spirited debate,” Ericksen said. “You provide information to the citizenry, you hear their points of views and you listen and you communicate. Thats a great part of the governing process.”

Young Democrats of Western member Gabbi Nazari said she preferred expressing her opinions directly to the senator rather than picketing outside of the event.

Tim Eyman ask a question during a town hall meeting in Viking Union with Senator Doug Ericksen on Thursday, Oct. 12. Ericksen came to address issues such as tuition, state budgets, job outlook, and the environment. // Photo by Paul Kelly

“It’s more of an impact to actually be in there asking questions, showing that we don’t agree with things and wanting to hear what he has to say,” Nazari said.

Ericksen brought a rare conservative viewpoint to Western’s campus.

“For the conservatives and the moderates of WWU, I wanted them to know they are not alone. There are a lot of people who agree with them, and they should not have to feel the pressure to remain silent while on campus,” Ericksen said.

Ericksen was yelled at by the crowd when he disagreed with the statistic of 97 percent of scientists agreeing that climate change is due to manmade activities. He said the number is made up and not a true statistic.

According to NASA, 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree,  climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities. In addition, leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position.

Issues of the past were brought up by opposers of Ericksen, including a campaign in 2015 to have the senator’s master’s degrees in environmental policy and political science from Western revoked.

“I’m here to show my dislike of him as a political representative and as a person,” junior Ignacio Perez said. “I think if you’re flat-out attacking environmentalism then you should not be able to hold a degree from a school that gave you a degree for environmental policy.”

Members of The Young Democrats of WWU were just one of the groups present to voice their opinions on Sen. Doug Ericksen's political views. // Photo by Paul Kelly

One audience member asked Ericksen about his beliefs on abortion. She pointed out Ericksen’s conflicting beliefs that the government should have less control over citizens’ lives, but more control over the choices women make in regards to reproductive health.

“So my question to you is, if a teenage girl is too young to decide for herself to have an abortion, which is a very personal and serious decision, how is she old enough to decide to become a parent?” she said.

Ericksen spoke on the importance of parental consent and parental notification in reference to abortion. He said there is overwhelming public support for restrictions against staff and faculty aiding minors in getting abortions, even though they can’t get legislation passed in Olympia.

“That’s just wrong, that is wrong, parents should be involved in that decision,” Ericksen said.

The meeting was hosted by Western Washington University Young Americans for Liberty and Western Washington Students for Life.

Young Americans for Liberty President Sean Rita said he wanted an open-forum where everyone can ask questions in a respectful manner.

“If you hate that he’s coming to speak, if you love that he’s coming to speak, if you don’t care, either way, come and ask questions, come learn,” Rita said. “An open-forum is the best thing for both sides to try and talk stuff out and give people a better understanding. Come with a level-head and an open mind.”

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