Sewanee Debate Union Hosts Final Debate of Semester

By Sophia Henderson
Staff Writer

A flurry of students and professors were seen excitedly filtering into McGriff Alumni House for the Sewanee Debate Union’s final debate of the semester. The debate symbolized the end of a semester’s worth of tournament-style debates; the two student debaters participating in this event had won all of their previous debates.

Mason Edwards (C’21), and Teressa Colhoun (C’20), the Debate Unions’ finalists, took turns at the podium to argue animatedly for their positions. The debate revolved around US use of torture to meet foreign policy objectives.  The debate moved through an energetic series of opening statements, cross-examinations, and closing statements.

Edwards (C’21) represented the position that the US should not use torture in its foreign policy endeavors, while Colhoun (C’20) argued that in pressing instances, the US will need to use torture in order to protect its citizens. Following the debate, the judges returned to announce that Teressa Colhoun (C’20) had won.


Both debaters argued artfully for their positions, delivering well-researched speeches and lively cross-examinations. Colhoun argued her position with confidence and wit, and Edwards delivered his arguments in a captivating and passionate manner. The debaters cited moral lenses through which to view torture, such as rule utilitarianism and negative utilitarianism, while also discussing the relative practicalities of using torture, and research done on the effectiveness of torture.


When asked about her decision to participate in the Sewanee Debate Union’s first semester as an organization, Colhoun explained “I enjoyed doing mock trial in high school, and this seemed like a similar organization. It’s always also great to practice public speaking and meet new people!”

The notion of a Debate Union seems especially important to the promotion of a free exchange of ideas. For an intellectual community like Sewanee, we need spaces to practice disagreement- and debate seems to be a fitting medium.


“Sewanee Debate Union definitely has the potential to add to the intellectual community on campus. Since we are just getting started, I think we still have a ways to go, but there was great turnout tonight of students and faculty. It is a healthy forum to debate various topics, and learn from peers”, Colhoun explained.

Certainly, the impressive turnout for Wednesday’s torture debate seems to bode well for the future of the debate union as a thriving organization on campus. The Sewanee Debate Union is led by Emily Donkervoet (C’18), their president.


When asked about her win, Colhoun stated, “As someone who never has done debate, I was surprised but excited to win! It was really nice to have the help of my fellow Sewanee Debate Union members prepare, and so many people turnout in support of Mason and I tonight.”


The Sewanee Debate Union hosted a successful and engaging final debate of the semester. We wait in anticipation for their debate season in the spring semester.