Controversial topics and intense competition stirred the debaters and audience members at the “Shockwaves in Bibb Graves” debate between members of the Philosophy Society and the Economics Club on Monday.
Each team had the chance to pick two of the five topics suggested by their opponents ahead of the event. The judges then picked a fifth topic that was announced during the event.
The topics of debate included whether companies should advertise to children, the border wall, artificial intelligence (AI) research, welfare and whether plastic bags should be banned.
“It was pretty interesting,” said Ashley Bacon, a freshman elementary education major from Fort Mitchell and debate enthusiast. She said one speaker in particular annoyed her as he contradicted himself and responded with rhetorical questions during the panel questions section of the debate.
The debaters themselves also had frustrations as they had to defend the side they had been assigned regardless of their personal stance on the issues.
Jay Valentine, assistant professor of history and philosophy and the adviser to the Philosophy Society, said that the speaker who was able to do that stood out to him. That speaker was Jeremiah Baky, a senior political science major from Dauphin Island.
“He did exactly what you’re supposed to do in a debate, which is play the hand that’s been given to you, and the hand that’s been given to him was in favor of social services, welfare, etc.,” Valentine said.
“He was very convincing, and the argument was really good and in a way that I thought stayed true to who he was,” Valentine continued. “He had a very sort of intelligent and genuine way that stuck to his nature, and I thought that was very impressive.”
The most important point of the debate, according to Felicia Cowley, a senior economics major from Enterprise who represented the Economics Club, was to attempt to look at topics from both angles.
When discussing the topic of whether companies should advertise to children, Cowley remarked that the debate gave a well-rounded view of the issue.
“I thought it was a really interesting question to debate and answer for audience members especially because advertising can be seen as coercive and taking advantage of people, so to be able to look at both sides was really the purpose of our debate as for that question and all the others.”
Four debaters from each side had to research the topics in advance and prepare a three-minute opening statement either in favor of or against the topic.
Cade Ashley, a sophomore economics major from Jemison, who spoke for the Philosophy Society team against further research on AI, said that the preparation took a toll on him.
“We ended up working on it (the argument) for like eight hours on a Sunday night, and so it kind of threw off my sleeping schedule,” he said.
Despite the pressure, Ashley said that he enjoyed the process and would be willing to participate again.
Valentine highlighted the self-driven interest of the debaters.
“There’s literally no grade for these folks,” he said. “They did it out of their own desire to debate and to develop their intellectual capabilities, to develop their understanding of logic and argumentation, etc.
“I mean there’s really few things that are like that in the collegiate environment. I really can’t think of a better thing that you have — that community aspect of a student group. Yet you also have that intellectual rigor. I think that would be the high point of any collegiate experience.”
Valentine said that in the future, different clubs and even self-organized friend groups will have a chance to participate in a debate.
“I think it would be really interesting to have a whole bowl instead of just a debate of Group A against a Group B,” he said. “You know you have maybe eight groups that do a first round of debates that maybe determines who goes to the next level and, you know, all the way through, sort of bracket style.”
According to Valentine, the easiest way to get involved with either the Philosophy Society or the Economics Club is to approach one of the members or connect with them on social media.
Bacon invited “anybody who likes drama because they get a little snippy with each other” to watch the debate, while Ashley said he encourages everyone to participate.
“Anyone,” Ashley stated. “Everyone. Come to both clubs. Everyone. If you have a mind for asking questions and seeking out better answers for things, come to Philosophy Society, go to Econ Club.
“If you like just talking about things, if you like conversations that are more than just “Did you catch a game last night?” you know, come join us. We have cookies, but we’re not the dark side.”