Screenshot of Professor Showdown Zoom event at College of the Canyons
College of the Canyons Political Science Club President Brandon Huetter, top-center, moderates a discussion between professors Phil Gussin, David Andrus, Majid Mosleh and Karl Striepe, left-to-right, during the Mar. 24, 2021 Professor Showdown. Striepe’s multiple book recommendations became a running theme of the event. Screenshot from Zoom by Jeremy D. Thompson.
College of the Canyons Political Science Club President Brandon Huetter, top-center, moderates a discussion between professors, from left, Phil Gussin, David Andrus, Majid Mosleh and Karl Striepe during the Mar. 24 Professor Showdown. Striepe’s multiple book recommendations became a running theme of the event. Screenshot from Zoom by Jeremy D. Thompson.

By Jeremy D. Thompson and Daniel Rios

Professors from the College of the Canyons Political Science department convened online Wednesday for a wide-ranging — and largely cordial — political discussion as the long-running Professor Showdown series resumed after a year’s hiatus.

The Professor Showdown, or PSD in the parlance of the Political Science Club who sponsored the event, has historically been held every semester. But, as with many regular gatherings, it was delayed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wednesday’s event was the first to be held online, leaving organizers unsure of what to expect.

“We’ve never done a Professor Showdown on Zoom, so I entered with no expectations because the environment is just so different than in-person,” said Political Science Club President Brandon Huetter. “I was ecstatic to see how comfortable and analytical the panel was.”

Professors David Andrus, Phil Gussin, Majid Mosleh and Karl Striepe represented the faculty in a discussion that was focused partially on issues, but predominantly on the health of American democracy itself.

While the event was engaging and thorough, some panelists felt something lacking that was present in past, and hopefully future, events.

“It was different in many of the same ways that teaching via Zoom is different. There isn’t the same connection with the audience. Especially when you can’t even see the audience,” said Gussin. “Having said that, I thoroughly enjoyed myself.”

College of the Canyons professors taking part in a panel discussion
Political science professors take part in a May 2017 Professor Showdown at College of the Canyons. Unlike this year’s PSD, previous events have featured rollicking in-person debates. Photo: Gilbert Bernal, Cougar News

Questions were submitted by COC students and answered in a conversational format that felt less like a high-stakes debate and more like a chat over coffee in a teacher’s lounge.

While modern politics are marked by a high degree of rancor, the event was generally collegial with participants starting nearly all their remarks by noting agreement with the answer before theirs.

“One of the points we always try to make — by example — is that what political scientists do is very different than what ‘talking heads’ do on cable news programs,” explained Gussin. “Cable news programs hired people who express strong views because they attract larger audiences. They encourage disagreement.

“Political scientists approach disagreements differently. When one of my colleagues answers a question differently than me, I have no desire to attack them or explain why they’re wrong. I want to understand how they came to that conclusion.”

Huetter chalked the comity up to good relationships between department faculty.

“They love going at it and arguing, but all of them get along great,” he said.

Andrus, a veteran of many of these forums, concurred.

“We always have a good time,” he said, “We take our answers seriously, but we try to have some fun as well.”

The online format presented a further complication to organizers who, other than Huetter, had never been involved in a PSD event because of the long break between installments. But the club president felt the effort paid off.

“We have been planning this for months now. It took lots of hard work, dedication, time and Zoom meetings to set this up. It really was a labor of love,” Huetter beamed in his closing remarks. “It was a wonderful opportunity to share that love with all of you.”

The Political Science Club meets each Friday at 1 p.m. via Zoom to discuss contemporary political topics and current events. Their president is already looking forward to the next Showdown, hopefully in person.

“Showdown is a semesterly event. So next Fall, expect PSD early on in the semester!” Huetter exclaimed.

1 comment
  1. Well done, Jeremy. I loved your description of the PSD
    as “a conversational format that felt less like a high-stakes debate and more like a chat over coffee in a teacher’s lounge.”

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