Laughter and “here, here’s” filled La Fetra Auditorium yesterday as students watched their professors debate whether human rights are a luxury only developed countries can afford.
Professors Gitty Amini, Bill Cook, Jay Jones, Sean Dillon, Roy Kwon and Jason Neidleman participated in the Hot Spots event put on by the International Studies Institute.
Ian Lising, chair of the speech communication department, said that seeing professors take positions they may not agree with was a good example for students to see.
“Debating is an activity everyone should participate in,” Lising said. “Faculty members participating shows how organic, visceral and genuine this kind of human interaction can be.”
The debate was judged by Director of Forensics Rob Ruiz, debate team captain Sam French and senior criminology major and Ari Lamb.
The debate was set in World Debate Championship format, which is very close to British Parliamentary procedure. The professors were randomly selected to be on the supporting, or government, side or the opposition side.
Dillon, Cook and Amini sat on the government side while Neidleman, Kwon and Jones opposed.
The debate was judged on three main components: manner, matter and method. Ruiz said persuasiveness was also an important element.
The government took the position that it was an unfortunate fact that money affords individuals human rights. They argued that to make a change for the better, one must accept this fact.
The opposition took the stand on the side of humanity.
“If we do not stand wholeheartedly for human rights, we open the door for oppression,” Neidleman said.
While the debate did not follow the rules to a tee, the audience cheered and heckled the professors from start to finish.
The professors were up to many antics themselves. Dillon humorously implored the audience to take him seriously despite being the only debater without a Ph.D. Neidleman joked that he oppressed his students’ rights by making them listen to him at 7.40 a.m. Cook pulled a monkey statue, skull and a “do-nothing” machine out of a bag for visual aids. While making a point, Kwon threw a dollar on the floor that Jones later grabbed.
After the debate, the floor was opened for questions while the judges deliberated. The panel reached a decision and the opposition side was declared the winners.
Kwon said he hopes to defend his title next year.
“I didn’t expect to get so into it,” Kwon said. “It brought out passion because it’s something I research.”
Tyler Harrison can be reached at email@example.com.