Master Debaters at UVM

The University of Vermont has many excellent programs but one of the most successful is often ignored by the students as well as the administrators and professors. For instance, if one were to ask you: what competitive team on campus has four national champions in the past year and a half? You may think, “Well, the cross-country ski team is picking up a lot of races, it’s got to be them,” and you would not be any farther from the correct answer, though they deserve their props.

The B-Town debate team has been racking up the trophies and is now setting their sights onto the regional final tournament that is this weekend, here at the University of Vermont. They are also paying their dues at the nationals in two weeks; if one were to pass by 475 Main St. , the team office, they would see the lights burning into the early hours of the morning. Usually, however, no one is aware that they are passing by a hothouse of intellectualism.

The failure to acknowledge debate teams at UVM and around the country has been a powerful antecedent to the gradual transgression of genuine arguments made from strong convictions. The pass?© concept of debating personal opinions has been replaced by arguments that construct large wars and threats to humanity, that the debaters don’t even believe to be true arguments.

Individual opinion has been abandoned because terms like “global nuclear war” and “world extinction” will always seem more imminent than fighting to end racism or one of the many viable social issues that craves solvency.

Why is this- I asked myself one afternoon- that people who love to hear themselves talk as much as debaters do, fail to vindicate their arguments with genuine beliefs? Matthew D. Silverman, a man hated by many but known in the debating world as a well-spoken debater and conversationalist, answered my question inadvertently but pointedly, saying “People have just given up on debate. The sport has been forgotten by the students and citizens of college towns.”

He later went on to say, “Without peers observing and silently judging the merit, tact, and validity of collegiate debate, it has become a game of who can prove that the other person’s argument will kill more people than mine does.”

This might be a disturbing fact if one were to consider the distinct possibility that most of these women and men debating are going to become lawyers, politicians, judges, policy makers and doctors; all of which are occupations in which ethics, truth and morality should be held at a paramount level.

Some on the team, like Silverman, believe that were student debaters to deliver speeches in front of a group of their peers, their arguments would reflect individual opinions, over-contrived extinction and help restore morality to an activity that will have implications over the decisions made by future politicians. This weekend, stop by Lafayette and check out the regional finals, not only to support one of the most competitive teams on campus, but also because your vigilance can help to put the integrity back into the issues being discussed as well as increasing the possibility of solving social injustices.

The issue debated this year is whether or not the US should decrease its consumption of fossil fuels; a very relevant subject in this day which is unfortunately being debated whimsically because the community never hears the arguments. Determining what needs to be done to stop problems like famine, exploitation and the destruction of our earth is the first battle of the social revolution and must gain closure.

Come get involved and if you’ve got something to say, check out the Huber house (475 Main St.) Monday evenings at 6 pm.