By Ronald Hanaki
On April 16 to 17, the Frederick Douglass Debate Society of ESU participated in the inaugural Frederick Douglass Debate Society Tournament at Bloomsburg University where they debated the following topic: should college student-athletes get paid?
In total, ESU sent four pairs of student-debaters to the tournament. For ESU’s student-debaters who put a tremendous amount of work and effort preparing for the tournament, this was their moment to shine.
ESU’s team of Allison Simon and Kennedy Sheeley took fourth place overall, and ESU’s David Canady and Feben Whitaker were named the top speakers at the tournament.
Philosophy professor Dr. T Storm Heter serves as the head coach for the debating team. Dr. Heter said, “The tournament was very successful, and I am very pleased with the debaters. I was very happy to see these students inspired. The teams were hungry, and they were on fire.”
Dr. Heter stated, “Debate is a great way to teach skill. It’s about skill and performance. Unlike preparing to write a paper, which is passive, this is very interactive.”
He added, “Debate is the best training for law. Debate and law are very similar.”
“Our students had to prepare to argue both sides of the debate – the affirmative and the opposition. As you go through the process, you develop critical thinking skills, and you learn advocacy,” said Dr. Heter.
Dr. Heter continued, “I liked the format of this debating tournament. There is no other competitive type of debate or speech situation that taps into students’ performances and competition. It is a unique activity.”
“If you perform and do well, you are left with a positive feeling. If you don’t do well, then you are inspired to do better next time,” said Dr. Heter.
“The students,” he said, “are motivated to do it again, and they are very motivated to improve.”
Kennedy Sheeley is a sophomore with a double major in sociology and political science and a minor in history. She was part of the dynamic debating duo that took fourth place at the tournament.
Sheeley said, “For me, it was about three weeks of prep and research, but it was a really fun and challenging experience.”
Linda St.Cyr is a senior political science major that took part in the competition. She said, “I was interested in debate because I wanted to improve my public speaking. My plan is to be a professor at a community college, and I need to be able to speak in a classroom. Debating gives incentive to critically evaluate a topic when on your feet.”
St.Cyr said, “I loved it. We met a lot of different students at different schools. Everybody is super-smart.
She enthused, “We were very well-prepared at the competition, and it was an experience worth having. Anyone interested in public speaking should join the debate team.”
Both St.Cyr and Sheeley were very complimentary about their respective partners. St.Cyr had this to say about her debating partner Mary Haggerty. “Mary is fantastic. She is supersmart. Her cross-examination is just fantastic. One day, she will be an amazing lawyer, ” said St.Cyr.
Of her debating partner Allison Simon, Sheeley said, “Allison is incredibly smart and great at the rebuttals. I would do the speech that I had prepared first, and she really made the rebuttals worth it. She would really close the deal on winning for us.”
Debating the subject of whether or not college student-athletes should get paid has changed the students’ perspectives on the issue.
Sheeley said, “At first, I thought athletes shouldn’t get paid. Now I’m neutral. It’s not a black-and-white issue.”
St.Cyr echoed Sheeley’s sentiments. “I thought athletes should not get paid until I did research on the topic. Now I have mixed feelings on it. It’s much more complex than I originally thought.”
This was the first semester in which ESU participated in a debate tournament.
In preparation for this spring’s tournament, the Douglass Debate Society spent the fall semester debating whether or not PASSHE universities should prohibit concealed weapons to all but authorized campus security officers.
In 2013, Kutztown University decided to allow university employees and students with legal gun permits to carry concealed guns in open areas on a case-by-case basis.
Although a new debating topic for next semester has yet to be chosen, the Douglass Debate Society is hoping to continue its success by holding debating scrimmages in the fall and spring semesters.
For those interested in joining the debate team next semester, the Frederick Douglass Debate Society meets every Tuesday in room 412 of Stroud Hall.
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