Celebrating Constitution Day with a COVID-19 vaccine mandate debate


Constitution Day program poster.

On Wednesday Sept. 22, West Liberty University (WLU) commemorated Constitution Day by holding a debate in the Alumni room, located in the student union on WLU’s main campus. The event took place in person, but there was also an option to attend the debate virtually through the Zoom application.

Constitution Day recognizes when the U.S. Constitution was signed and established in the American government. WLU has been celebrating this event for the past few years; however, students were unable to celebrate Constitution Day and attend the debate due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the fall 2020 semester.

Dr. Brian Fitzpatrick, a political science professor, coordinated the student debate and served as the moderator. Fitzpatrick and his political science students decided to debate on the following resolution: Vaccine mandates do not violate civil liberty protections in the United States Constitution.

“The resolution is very relevant. You hear about it in the news,” said Fitzpatrick.

The debate consisted of four of Fitzpatrick’s political science students that were split up into two teams. One affirming the resolution, the other opposing it. Before the debate began, Fitzpatrick had the audience members log into the website Kahoot to determine the number of people for or against the resolution. Five votes were in favor of the resolution, one voted against it while two were undecided.

Each team had three minutes to present their opening and closing remarks. After each team presented their opening arguments, Fitzpatrick transitioned to the open debate portion, which lasted ten minutes. Lastly, 15 minutes were devoted to audience questions.

Natosha Douglas and Ismail Amara, the students supporting the resolution, essentially argued that vaccine mandates enhance civil liberties because they protect the most vulnerable such as the elderly, children, or those with a compromising condition, through herd immunity. On the other hand, Brendan Sands and Jimmy Willis argue vaccine mandates, though enacted for the greater good of the public, still inhibit different groups of people who do not desire to get vaccinated.

Before the end of the debate, Fitzpatrick had the audience members log into Kahoot once more and vote on the resolution to see if anyone was persuaded by either team. Overall, Douglas and Amara’s position maintained the most number of votes. However, Sands and Willis did gain three more votes compared to the first results.

Douglas expressed that she was very passionate about this year’s debate. “It’s not very often that women do something like this in such a male dominated field,” said Douglas.

Amara on the other hand wanted to redefine how people should understand civil liberties. “I think the definition of civil liberties are still a little blurry,” said Amara.

This year’s Constitution Day was celebrated with a civil debate filled with passionate students presenting cohesive arguments. Fitzpatrick is proud of his students and their contributions.