Tag Archives: debate
With a maximum capacity crowd present, three professionals delivered their varying points of view on gun violence and what should be done about it. Students from the Law, Rights and Justice class taught by Nicholas Buccola, assistant professor of political science, among many others, gathered for the luncheon panel on March 19.
Penny Okamoto, executive director of Ceasefire Oregon, Chris Bouneff, executive director of The National Alliance on Mental Illness of Oregon, and James Huffman, a constitutional law professor from Lewis and Clark Law School, all presented their positions on gun rights and legislation.
In the context of the tragic shootings last fall and the recent legislation in January, gun violence has been a hot topic in classes like Buccola’s. In this class, students argue about various legal controversies and participate in a moral court, with two contrasting sides and judges, to learn how to form objective and constructive arguments.
The students applied what they learned in class to the discussion with the panel of professionals.
“My sense from the students was that the panel was helpful in terms of thinking of the issues, but they also had a chance to see other people forming arguments on behalf of the issue,” Buccola said. “Using the way we argue about these things and what kinds of appeals to reason and emotions are used, we figure out ways to be critical listeners. Students applied logical fallacies to the speakers’ arguments, from what they learned in class. They’ll be writing their papers on it next week.”
Buccola sent out a survey to his class to see what students wanted to argue about. He incorporated the issue of gun rights into his class and then created events linked to what was talked about. These events are part of Linfield’s Douglass Forum, which is dedicated to promoting discussion and debate about law, individual rights and different, competing ideas of justice.
The gun violence panel was in a traditional debate format. The question posed to the panel was what Oregon should do about gun violence, similar to congressional hearings.
“[Okamoto]’s big thing is that Ceasefire Oregon’s agenda is not to abolish gun rights or take guns away from responsible people, but to figure out how to regulate guns in a way that makes sense,” Buccola said. “I suspected Huffman would be on the more conservative side of the issue.”
Buccola thought that Bouneff would provide an interesting voice to the argument. Bouneff was partially reluctant at first, Buccola said. The mental illness advocacy community is put in an uncomfortable position with the gun rights controversy.
“On one hand, it’s good for the lack of funding for mental illness because it’s getting more attention,” he said. “But on the other hand, the mental health advocacy community doesn’t want mental illness to be associated with violence. [Bouneff] really emphasized not marginalizing mentally ill people and not making assumptions about proclivities toward violence.”
Huffman framed constitutional questions associated with gun control and tried to give the crowd a sense of other constitutional issues. Buccola said that during the Q-and-A session, he adopted more of an advocacy role for gun rights.
Most of the students were in the middle with their opinions of what to do about gun violence. Instead of coming to a conclusion about what to do, students were left with plenty to think about and discuss.
“I don’t know that a resolution was reached. One thing that wasn’t clear by the end was how somebody like Huffman felt about various regulations that Okamoto was defending,” Buccola said. “Huffman staked out a robust and philosophical position of individual rights to own a gun. But it wasn’t clear how that would apply to regulations Okamoto discussed.”
Kelsey Sutton/Managing editor
Kelsey Sutton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is freedom? This reoccurring question has plagued the United States since its conception, and even today in 2013, scholars continue the debate.
As a part of the Frederick Douglass Forum, the Department of Political Science hosted the “Politics of Freedom” debate Feb. 26 in Riley 201.
Split by liberal and conservative views, the topic looked at the question. Representing the liberal side was Corey Robin, associate professor of political science at Brooklyn College and the City University of New York Graduate Center. Mark Blitz, Fletcher Jones professor of political philosophy at Claremont McKenna College took the conservative side of the debate.
Blitz started the debate off defining freedom as being “the authority to direct one’s self and not to be constrained in directing one’s self.”
“To preserve freedom or liberty is crucial to understand the freedom or liberty we want to preserve,” Blitz said.
Blitz’s central point in the debate on freedom was that “the primary condition to secure and advance natural freedom is to understand and preserve liberty and equality in this individual sense, which as the Declaration of Independence shows is the intellectual root of our country.”
Robins took the floor after Blitz and pointed out that both “the left and right side view liberty similarly.”
“Freedom on both sides says that it is the right to what you want to do,” Robins said.
Robins went on to describe what freedom included for both sides. The left included personal expression and privacy, freedom of political assembly and sexual and reproductive choices. The right included economic and religious opportunity.
Robins spoke of where the threat to freedom lies. His argument went on to say that the workplace is the main institution where freedom is lost, where rules and regulations can strictly dictate behavior.
“Freedom is the freedom of a body to move unimpeded by external constraints,” Robins said, quoting Thomas Hobbes’s definition of freedom.
Both men described aspects of freedom and what it meant to be free. While there is no single answer to what freedom is, the debate will continue on.
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A debate was held discussing whether Oregon should recognize same-sex marriage Nov. 26 in Ice Auditorium. After Oregon voted to approve Measure 36 to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman in 2004, the topic often leads to heated debate.
The debate featured Pamela Karlan, the Kenneth and Montgomery professor of public interest law and co-director of the Supreme Court Litigation Clinic at Stanford Law School, and Justin Dyer, assistant professor of political science at the University of Missouri.
Karlan began the debate by stating that yes, she believed Oregon law should recognize same-sex marriage.
“We’re talking about Oregon law,” Karlan said. “I think that’s important to understand that what we’re talking about here is not whether particular religions have to recognize marriages that they don’t want to solemnize.”
She also explained that the decision to recognize same-sex marriages might come before Oregon has the chance to vote again. At the moment, the Supreme Court is being faced with cases dealing with same-sex marriage in California and if the federal government should have to recognize marriages that states recognize, even same-sex marriage.
“I think it’s important to understand what it means to say that the law recognizes marriages,” Karlan said.
Karlan emphasized the idea that the issue during the debate is whether the people of Oregon should democratically recognize marriages, regardless of the sex between the two people in the marriage. In this aspect, she stressed that it is imperative to understand what recognition means in regard to marriage.
“It’s important to understand the consequences of treating a relationship as a marriage versus treating it as something else,” Karlan said.
Since the ’50s, Karlan explained that people have viewed marriage as a romantic relationship between two people. However, she also explained that marriage is more than just romance.
Karlan referred to marriage as an “economic relationship,” as there are many economic benefits that come along with marriage.
Karlan also discussed the importance of marriage law in cases of divorce, as half of marriages in America end in divorce today. The marriage law helps protect the spouse when the marriage dissolves, Karlan said.
Although Oregon does have civil union laws, Karlan explained that it doesn’t provide recognition in all other ways that marriage does. For example, the federal government is forced to recognize marriages but not civil unions.
Karlan also argued that it is difficult to explain to people what exactly a civil union is.
“It doesn’t have the same resonance. It doesn’t tell people the same thing,” Karlan said.
Karlan referenced the Supreme Court’s case, Loving v. Virginia, a case in which an interracial couple went to the Supreme Court after being denied the ability to get married. The Supreme Court struck down the law and allowed interracial marriages to be legalized.
“At the time the Supreme Court struck down that law, Americans were just as divided about interracial marriage as they are today about same-sex marriage,” Karlan said. “It’s about equality.”
Karlan also discussed that marriage is not always about children, a common argument of why marriage should remain restricted to opposite-sex couples. She pointed out that even a few Justices on the Supreme Court have no biological children of their own.
“Marriage is not just about children. It’s also about a life with a spouse,” Karlan said.
In contrast to Karlan’s argument, Dyer began his argument by stating that as someone from Missouri, he felt uncomfortable telling Oregonians that they should vote yes or no on same-sex marriage. Instead, he
wanted to give the audience a few things to think about in regard to same-sex marriage.
“I agree with [Karlan] wholeheartedly, I don’t think this debate is about religion,” Dyer said. “I think primarily the debate is about marriage, and what marriage is.”
Dyer agreed that marriage is changing in American society, and stated that marriage has become something that does not live up to its purpose.
“What we’re saying is not what marriage has become, it’s something that doesn’t fulfill its public purpose well,” Dyer said. “A lot of people on the traditional side have been saying for years that we need a stronger marriage culture, a better marriage culture.”
Since the ’60s, divorce rates have increased, Dyer said. This leads to children growing up in broken households, which Dyer said is an issue in today’s culture.
“Regardless of what happens with this debate, I would like to see marriage strengthened in American society today,” Dyer said. “I think that the logic of same-sex marriage is against that and would lead us to different places.”
Dyer pointed out that the traditional public purpose of marriage is to unite a set of social goods that lead back to legal and social support. Those goods include sex, procreation and childbearing.
Dyer also brought up the idea of same-sex marriage undercutting norms surrounding marriage. About 50 years from now, Dyer believes that people may potentially be debating marriage and monogamy altogether.
To make his point, Dyer brought up the court case Baker v. Nelson in which two men were the first to apply for a marriage license in Minnesota and were denied.
According to Dyer, the dictionary definition of marriage is the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex. Although he said that definitions could change, he stresses that it’s important to understand why that definition was created in the first place.
Dyer went on to say that marriage is a sexual union, and procreation plays a large role in why marriage is between opposite sex.
“When children don’t have moms and dads that are connected to each other, that’s a huge social problem,” Dyer said.
Toward the end of the debate, the two participants were allowed to ask each other questions to further explain their own points.
Karlan began the questions portion by asking Dyer whether he thought it was odd that the main argument against same-sex marriage was that straight men are “rogues” who can’t be trusted to stay around their children, thus marriage provides them a foundation to stay.
“It’s not about who’s worthy and who’s not worthy,” Dyer said. “The case is that straight men are rogues who may not stick around their kids without having good legal and social support. And that might be a good reason why we have marriage, and why it may not apply in the same way to same-sex couples.”
In response, Karlan pointed out that same-sex couples only have children if they both agree on having children, in which case they would be more willing to stay around than “rogue” straight men.
Dyer then asked Karlan why monogamy and sexuality play a part in marriage, referring to the idea that by allowing same-sex marriage today, it may lead to more changes to marriage in the future.
“There’s always the slippery slope argument,” Karlan said. “And I think that you can’t give an answer in the abstract, because where you draw the line is always going to in that sense be artificial. And I think what we can say is that in our culture today, [with] the idea of pair-bonding that is connected with sexual expression, that you can draw the line where we draw it.”
After the debate had ended, the audience had mixed opinions on how the debate had gone.
“The affirmative side was simply brilliant,” sophomore Lindsey Anderson said. “While her opponent struggled to distinguish his position on same-sex marriage, [Karlan] had an aura of unshakable confidence.”
Samantha Sigler can be reached at email@example.com.
Despite that they were debating about serious topics, such as the swine flu, the students used their acting skills to impersonate famous characters like Ellen Degeneres and Jon Stewart.
These character debates were part of the 81st Mahaffey Memorial Tournament, where 24 colleges and universities met at Linfield’s campus Nov. 12-14, capitalizing on their debate and speaking skills to compete.
“The character debate is an event that isn’t offered at other colleges,” sophomore Clara Martinez said in an email.
Martinez said Linfield’s forensics team did well in the tournament, with Martinez scoring first place in the junior persuasion category and freshmen Matt Baurichter and Michal Zier making it to semi-finals in junior British
Even though Martinez said the event required a lot of set-up and preparation time, she enjoyed how the home tournament allowed a comfortable atmosphere.
“Home tournaments are usually much more relaxed for us as competitors,” Martinez said. “In between rounds I can stop by my dorm room if I forget to grab something and getting some rest is a bit easier.”
But despite the wide range of participating schools and success of the tournament, few Linfield supporters attended the event, freshman Caitlyn Bruno said.
Buno said that because the forensics team is such a small program, it’s difficult to get extensive support.
“In general, most people don’t know everything that goes into the team, even if they’ve heard of it,” Bruno said. “But they are still interested when I tell them that I’m part of the program.”
But despite the lack of recognition, Martinez said the tournaments and being part of the team have enhanced her speaking and reasoning skills.
“Competing in a variety of individual events has helped me improve my debating skills,” Martinez said. “I have gained so much public speaking experience that it has spilled over into my classroom participation and presentations for the better. I have realized that with speech and debate, all I can do is improve with dedication, passion and practice.”
Joanna Peterson/Managing editor
Joanna Peterson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
The health care reform has been the talk of many since President Barack Obama held a White House forum March 5, 2009.
The talk was brought to Linfield College by James Huffman, a professor from Lewis & Clark Law School, and Norman Williams, a professor from Willamette University College of Law on Sept. 14.
Nick Buccola, assistant professor of political science, opened for the debate, which was focused on health care reform and the Constitution.
To go along with the topic of the Constitution, the audience received pocket sized copies of the Constitution.
Buccola had expectations of what the audience’s reactions would be.
“I [expect] the audience to come into the room with views of the merits of health care reform as a matter of public policy and to be forced by the topic of the debate to think through the issue through the slightly different lens of constitutional law.”
Winning the coin toss, Huffman spoke on his views of the topic first, clearly stating that he does not agree with the health care reform. In his opening statement, Huffman acknowledged that Williams would have plenty of case laws to support his argument, but he went on to say that the individual mandate is that “health care isn’t going to work without the individual mandate.” The individual mandate that he referred to was explained to be that “health care has to be purchased.” Huffman also stated that this would be unconstitutional.
In contrast, Williams defended health care reform and said that it is constitutional. Williams explained the importance of health care reform.
He said the people who are unable to pay their hospital bills never pay, and their expenses get tacked on to other people’s bills, which makes their insurance higher. He referred to this as “cost shifting.”
“I found it very problematic that 43 million people are unable to pay for their health care and that it is passed on to others. This needs to be fixed in a constitutional manner,” sophomore Andrea Erland said.
“The Federal Court does not sit around to evaluate laws,” William said in reference to the 300 hundred page proposal. He went on to say that it is the work of the three branches of government and none of them are more important than the other.
“I thought Professor Huffman and Professor Williams offered strong arguments on behalf of their respective positions,” Buccola said in an email. “As I indicated at the event, I think Huffman’s position is problematic because it assumes an understanding of liberty that is contestable and I worry that Williams does not provide an adequate account of the role on constitutionalism in the American system of government.”
Kaylyn Peterson/Sports editor
Kaylyn Peterson can be reached at email@example.com.