How do you feel about selling human organs?
The University of Rhode Island Debate Union will team up with the world renowned Cambridge Debate Union to debate the ethical and economic standpoints of the legalization of the sale of organs April 6 from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. in the Lippitt Hall auditorium.
The event is free and open to the public, and serves as a chance for the newly reinvigorated URI debate team to practice and hone in their skills. The team, whose activity has been on and off since 1904, started up again last semester, and will be officially recognized by Student Senate on Wednesday, April 1.
“This is a really wonderful opportunity to collaborate with some of the best debaters in the world,” said Cate Morrison, debate coach and communications professor. “We have two whole days to talk through arguments, think about strategy and work on our presentation.”
Cambridge debaters are visiting the United States from the United Kingdom as part of an annual debate tour, said Morrison. Cambridge is one of the first and oldest debate teams in the world.
URI will host the team from April 5 to 6, starting with some different debate workshops focusing on strategy and presentation. After a couple practice rounds on Monday throughout the day, URI and Cambridge students will partner up to debate authorization to legalize the sale of human organs.
“The purpose of doing this collaboration is to learn,” said freshman Debate Union member Gabbie Viens. “Throughout the weekend we have workshops they’re going to do with us, where we can learn a lot about constructing arguments, how to construct your speech, how to be aware of your tics, and how to be a better, more effective speaker.”
Both debate teams compete using the British Parliamentary style of debating. In these types of debates, eight members compete through two halves of the argument with members from two to four different teams. Typically debates have four people at a time, two people from the “government” standpoint, and two people from the “opposing” standpoint.
One member from the government side begins, giving a seven minute speech in favor of passing the motion. Then, the opposing side tries to refute the argument, and so on. The other half of the debate follows the same track, hopefully exposing a different side of the argument.
Viens said that debate is not as intimidating as it seems. Viens is in her fifth year competing, and is looking forward to the Cambridge visit and debate.
“One of the best ways to improve your debating skills is to debate with people who are better than you,” she said. “This is is something our team will really benefit from.”
Throughout her high school years with debate teams, Viens has used the American style of debate. One of the primary differences between the two styles is audience participation, something that Morrison is looking forward to incorporating into the upcoming debate.
“It thrives on interaction with the audience,” Morrison said. “If you hear an argument you like, you give a knock on table, if you don’t like it you give a hiss, and if its truly terrible you say shame.”
Morrison plans to incorporate audience members into the final decision, either through paper ballots or through voice throughout the floor.
Sophomore Sabrina Giedekier is one of the four URI team members who was elected to participate in the debate.
“I have butterflies, but I am so ready to go,” Geidekier said. “I’m so nervous because I know in actual debating they speak so fast, up to 300 words per minute. But at the same time I’m so excited.”
Alexandra Foran, sophomore member and also the team’s public relations person, will be live tweeting the event. She encourages everyone to try out debate. The club meets every Wednesday from 7 to 9 p.m. in Davis Hall, room 7.
“We’re always looking for new members.There’s no tryouts, and it’s open to everyone,” Foran said. There’s a lot of freedom that comes with the club, as members have the opportunity to debate at intercollegiate levels and tournaments, or just stay local and meet with the group on campus. They don’t always debate such serious topics either, she adds. One of their most recent debates in-house was whether or not to advocate for the right to party.
In the future, the club hopes to branch out and attract more members from all aspects of URI. Morrison said they hope to host debates between different student clubs and organizations like fraternities, classes, or people with different perspectives.
At meetings, Morrison said she will put new members right into debates, giving them a hands on experience of what actual debate is like.
Foran, Geidekier and Viens agree that debate is an invigorating power trip, and a great way to better public speaking and social skills.
“I’m way more confident, articulate, and it’s just helped my life a lot,” Viens said. “A lot more people would really benefit from it. It’s nerve wracking at first, but you get over it.” Â She added that going against the best schools in the nation is a fun way to soak up intellect and collaborate with other schools.
“We follow a ‘fake it till you make it’ state of mind, where you pretend you’re confident speaking and you will be,” Veins said. “I don’t know when I stopped pretending.”