Photo courtesy of orange.k12.nj.us
By Mason Edwards
One of the newest organizations on campus is the Sewanee Debate Union (SDU). Student run, the SDU seeks to expose the student body and the surrounding community to the importance of speaking and debating.
Lack of experience shouldn’t deter students from joining the SDU. With practice, faculty sponsor Sean O’Rourke believes that anyone can speak convincingly. “Anyone can be a part of this with enough practice. I would hope that part of what happens in the SDU is that the people that have experience take part of their time to teach those that have less experience. Debate can be a wonderful experience if you are well trained,” he commented.
Though the club is student-run, the administration looked to model the SDU after similar clubs in the United Kingdom, such as St. Andrews, Oxford, Cambridge, and others. In this European style, each side tries to communicate to a large audience, persuading listeners to their side. In the future, O’Rourke envisions the SDU targeting not only the student body but also incorporating the greater community, debating issues prevalent to both the U.S. and Sewanee.
Right now though, the club is still getting on its feet. Currently, the 11-person club is debating whether torture ought to be used to fulfill national security objectives. They are using the Lincoln-Douglas debate format, where current issues are discussed through a philosophical and moral viewpoint.
“LD is a really fun way to engage in ideas, values, and culture; with peers who bring intriguing arguments to the table,” commented debater Jared Williams (C’21).
The club will explore different speaking events and debate formats, but O’Rourke has faith in their future. He commented, “Hopefully it will grow, in terms of number of participants and number of events on campus. I would like to see something equivalent to the Oxford or Cambridge Debate SDU, all good models for us to emulate.”
Despite its brief existence, many members are excited about where the club is heading. Williams noted, “It’s a new organization, so there are some kinks we need to work out, but I’m confident in the organization and the talented group of people in it.”
The SDU is closing out their inaugural semester with a public debate in Walsh-Ellett on December 6 at 5:00 p.m. Everyone is encouraged to come and watch this thought-provoking competition.