Tarleton Texan Debate discusses the mask mandate

Madison Reed

Multimedia Journalist

On Tuesday, Oct. 27, Tarleton State University and the Department of Communication Studies hosted the eighth biannual Texan Debate. There was a total of three debates, two preliminaries in the OA Grant building at 2 p.m. and 3 p.m., which people could watch face to face or over Zoom, and one in the Fine Arts Center at 7 p.m. face to face, live on YouTube and broadcasted on the radio.

The Texan Debate had a live audience as well as a virtual audience on YouTube and a listening audience on KTRL 90.5 FM.
Photo by Madison Reed.

The Texan Debate started at Tarleton in the spring semester of 2017 and is held every semester.

“It was an initiative by the Provost, Karen Murray, to implement a high impact practice involving debate. It was originally modeled after ‘The Great Debate’ from Chico State,” the Director of Texan Debate and Master of Ceremonies Winston Dawson said.

During a debate there are two teams—the government and the opposition. The government has a prime minister and a member while the opposition team has a leader and a member.

Each team is given a topic in which they will debate and will be told if they are arguing for or against the topic. The government team is for the topic, while the opposition is against it.

Each team gives their rehearsed opening arguments about why they are for or against the topic based on legitimate facts. After both teams have given their side, they must argue why the other team is wrong and why the audience should agree with their side instead.

The motion being debated during Tuesday’s debate was, “This house moves that the current mask mandate in now indefinite.” During the debate, both teams gave reasons why this movement should be passed or denied.

Texan News attended the evening debate on Tuesday, which did not have any ties with the preliminary debates earlier that day. The government team consisted of Michaela Dennis as prime minister and Zemoni Hopkins as the member. The opposition team consisted of Kylie Cummings as the leader and William Bryant as the member.

Kylie Cummings and William Bryant are ready for the debate to begin.
Photo by Madison Reed.

This semester’s debate looked different than past semester. Usually there would be a panel of experts who would consider the outcome of the debate, paying close attention to policy, facts and the arguments given during each members’ speech. However, due to COVID-19 and social distancing guidelines, Tarleton and the Department of Communication Studies decided to get rid of the panel of judges and let the audience vote before the debate began to see where they stood beforehand and then vote again afterwards to see if the debaters had swayed them to a different side.

Government took to the podium first Tuesday evening with Dennis speaking first.

The members of government, Michaela Dennis and Zemoni Hopkins.
Photo by Madison Reed.

Dennis said, “We argue that everyone should wear a mask in public places. By public places, I mean indoor environments within the public.”

Dennis continued her argument by stating how the number of COVID-related deaths had fallen from July to October due to the rise of people wearing masks in public. She even mentioned a case study where two hairstylists had contracted COVID-19 but before they got their tests results back, they had styled 139 client’s hair with each appointment lasting around 15 to 45 minutes. Then, since both the stylists and the clients wore masks the entire appointment, none of the clients who had been in contact with the two COVID-19 stricken stylists tested positive or showed any symptoms.

Opposition gave their opening statements next.

“We except the government’s definition of masks,” Cummings said. “However, we do not except the motion that masks should be indefinite…Our arguments against indefinite mask wearing is the increase of pollution it is causing, many do not wear masks correctly in the first place and the people who do follow the mandate still get COVID.”

The Texan Debate lasted forty minutes with each team giving their arguments for why they believed the mask mandate should become indefinite or not. The debate concluded with Watson and Christopher Gearhart, department head of the communications department, asking each team a handful of unrehearsed questions about the topic and their stance. In the end, the audience voted the opposition team as the victors of the debate.

Texan News was able to interview Bryant, the member of opposition, shortly after the debate.

When asked what the importance of debate was in his opinion, he said, “Debating is important, it gives us the people the ability to discuss current issues with facts instead of an emotional response.”

Dawson believes debate is a foundational idea of every free society.

“It promotes free thinking and the idea that any idea can be challenged,” Dawson said. “Debate makes sure the best ideas see the light of day; their validity decides how long they remain.”

Dawson also stated that debate helps significantly improve communication skills.

“Debate is all about listening and responding, listening being the most commonly overlooked. The most effective debaters listen intently and respond accordingly. Listening for and deconstructing arguments will benefit them far beyond the debate experience,” Dawson said.

Bryant also encouraged others to try debate.

“I would encourage those that have trouble speaking in front of an audience to try at least one debate,” Bryant said. “I think it will boost confidence, but also the ability to see both sides of a viewpoint so that they can make an informed decision.”

If you would like to participate in a debate, you can email Dawson at wdawson@tarleton.edu. To watch the full evening debate, you can go to https://youtu.be/KwCroNvLx_0.

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