BY PATRICK KELLEY
BOLOGNA, Italy — The SAIS Europe Debate Society held their second debate of the year Friday, Nov. 6, at the Bologna Center auditorium, debating the motion, “This House Believes that the European asylum policies fail to protect Europe”. Speaking for the motion was MA candidate Fatima Al-Zahra Hewaidi and MIPP candidate Bernardo Notarangelo, and speaking against the motion was MA candidates Chris Jackson and Benji Newman.
Jackson and Newman won the debate, which was scored by measuring an audience vote for or against the motion before the debate began and again after its conclusion. The first vote saw nine votes for the motion with 14 against. The second vote — which included votes of audience members who entered the debate after it began who did not enter an initial vote – featured 13 for and 17 against the motion.
Around 30 students attended along with professors John Harper and Marco Cesa. Although not all SAISers were available to attend as the French oral midterm and Policies and Politics of the American Emergency State ran concurrent to the regularly-scheduled 3:30 p.m. debate.
The respective sides made their arguments through five-minute individual opening statements, followed by responding to 20 minutes of questions from the audience and the moderator, MA candidate Faisal Hamid. Both sides closed their arguments with individual two-and-a-half minute final statements.
Debater against the motion and Debate Society Treasurer Chris Jackson said among his goals for the year is to expand the Debate Society’s recognition beyond SAIS.
“It would be a lovely thing to be able to get SAIS to a stage where there was an awareness within groups that actually the student body at SAIS gets involved in these debate with a very different format to the oxford union,” Jackson said. “If at some point in the future we can do that and have a SAIS debating style, brand or technique associated with us that would be incredible.”
Jackson and the rest of the Debate Society board – MA candidates Leo Fordor, Manon Jeanne Barthoud, Fatima Al-Zahra Hewaidi and Faisal Hamid — have worked to build enthusiasm within SAIS by debating contemporary topics that incorporate an element of moral values.
The first debated topic of the year was, “This House believes that Russia’s Middle Eastern strategy is the only way to defeat ISIS”. All topics are decided upon by the board and announced to the class through the SAIS Europe Facebook group to garner turnout and to recruit debaters.
Organizing weekly debates is nothing new for Jackson. During his time at the University of York, the Englishman hosted debates with the same frequency as a member of the university’s Model United Nations. His plan for the rest of the year at SAIS is to increase student turnout and to recruit external speakers and faculty members. And in order to do so, no topic is off the table.
“I don’t think there is any topic that we wouldn’t broach”, Jackson said. “We very much would be willing to look at any kind of debate that we think is controversial, because if it is controversial then there’s a sense that people actually care and are passionate about the issues, and there’s no point in arguing or debating something that does not arouses those passions in people.”