The final rounds of the Professor’s Debate Tournament were held Tuesday afternoon at 3 p.m. in Harvey Hall.
In the semi-final round, Web Drake, chair of the communication arts department and director of debate, defended the statement ‘Professors should wear robes to class’. Ben Mitchell, university provost, argued against the idea.
Drake, after donning his ceremonial robe, presented fourteen points in support of his argument. They were divided into three main categories: robes would benefit the faculty, the students and recruiting.
Among the benefits to faculty, Drake cited the warmth of the robes as well as the visible authority they would give professors. He appealed to students by arguing that being able to easily identify professors could prevent embarrassment.
“Nobody wants the experience of complaining loudly about a certain professor when he’s sitting right in front of you…robes would prevent that,” Drake said.
He also argued that if professors wore robes, the campus would look like Hogwarts to any visitors, potentially attracting more students.
“I mean, we already have a quidditch match every semester…all that’s missing are the robes, and we look like Hogwarts! Who wouldn’t want that?” He said jokingly.
Mitchell, also dressed in his robe, countered by arguing the authority Drake claimed robes would give the faculty was “faux-thority,” and would set up an unnecessary barrier between faculty and students.
“Only priests and judges wear robes, and we are neither…authority is earned in every interaction we have with students, not by the robes we wear,” Mitchell said.
He also pointed out that it would detract from faculty individuality.
“What about the dashing style of Professors like Dr. Poe and Dr. Thornbury, who are prized for their erudition and haberdashery?” he said. “You can take away my faculty evaluations but you cannot take away my freedom!”
To prove his point, he unzipped his robe and tossed it aside.
Drake, after carefully picking up Mitchell’s robe and folding it, argued that the barrier Mitchell was concerned about already existed.
“There’s already a barrier. In class, I think it’s ok to be looked at as an authority….I don’t know what he’s saying about his self-esteem, but I worked hard for my robe and I don’t believe it is indeed ‘faux-thority’,” he said.
He also emphasized that, because of the wording of the statement, he was only arguing professors should choose to wear robes, not that they should be forced too.
Mitchell was not impressed.
“It seems to me that the weight of the arguments could only be refuted by…Ha!” he said.
He also referenced Jesus’ warning against the Pharisees and their long, flowing robes.
Though the official vote was split, Mitchell ultimately won the round by a slim majority of 2 popular votes.
‘Love conquers all’
In the final round, Huelin, professor of English, argued in support of the statement ‘love conquers all’. Hunter Baker, associate provost and dean of instruction, argued against it.
Huelin framed his argument broadly. Referencing the theologian Thomas Aquinas, he defined love “in an amoral, philosophical sense…all action begins with a desire for an end, and this desire for an end is love in its most basic sense,” he said.
He provided himself as an example.
“Why am I standing at this quasi-podium thing tonight? Because I have decided it is a fitting means to desired ends…I want the debate team to travel to nationals…I want to entertain the audience, and I want to crush my opponent!” he said jokingly.
His argument was that, because his actions were driven by a desire for a specific goal, his actions were driven by love. Because love dictates actions, love conquers all, he said.
Baker opposed the argument by first admitting its inherent strengths, as well as the skill of Huelin’s debating.
“Such a combination of argument and arguer is almost too much for me to face…me, a poor, political hack! Almost a hillbilly,” he said jokingly. “Yet I say almost! I will sally forth from the ranks and strive for victory…”
He then launched into a counter-argument, citing 3 different passages of the poet Virgil. In one, Virgil writes that love conquers, in another work and in a third love.
“All means all, not all minus one,” he said. “What happens when love and truth collide? Or love and wisdom? Or love and work? You may see a theme here…in the modern vernacular, this would be translated as ‘awesomeness conquers all’.”
He also pointed out the lack of morality in Huelin’s theory, as not all desires are inherently good and appealed to First John Four, which states ‘God is love’.
“To conquer something is to take it by force…but how can you conquer something you already possess? If God is love, he has no need to conquer…he has all things in his hand,” he said.
Huelin countered that focusing on morality missed the point. Love, he said, is the relationship between the desires and the ends, not the virtues or vices themselves.
He used Baker’s own appeal to morality against him.
“The very nature of our loving wrong ends means we have yanked ourselves away from our proper owner…there is a winning back that must take place,” he said.
He closed by emphasizing the centrality of love in Virgil’s Divine Comedy.
“The very center of the divine comedy is Virgil’s discourse on love, and the very definition given for that love is that love is the mode or principle of action,” he said. “Whatever it is we love is that which we will do, and whatever it is we do is that which we will grow to resemble.”
The official ballots were split again, but Huelin claimed victory by a majority of 3 popular votes and was declared the official tournament champion.