April 06, 2016

SIU debaters to face off in campus exhibition

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s top student debaters will focus on how four of the remaining presidential candidates’ platforms will affect the region during an exhibition debate next week. 

Arielle Stephenson and Robert Swetz will face each other in the Paul Simon Debate at 7 p.m., Tuesday, April 12, in the Student Center Auditorium. Admission is free and open to the public. The Paul Simon Public Policy Institute is sponsoring the event. 

Stephenson and Swetz will debate “Who would be the best President for Southern Illinoisans?” Stephenson, a senior in business economics, and Swetz, a freshman in economics with a focus on international economics, teamed last month to finish second in the National Parliamentary Debate Association championships. That was the sixth time in nine years SIU has advanced to the championship debate, winning four of those years. 

Todd Graham, SIU’s director of debate, said when he initially thought of the topic he believed there would be one candidate per field left by April. Now, Stephenson will focus on the platforms of Democratic presidential hopefuls former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Swetz will do the same with Republican candidates Donald Trump and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. Stephenson and Swetz will also note differences among the candidates’ respective platforms, where necessary. 

The debate will focus on three topics – energy, including coal and fracking; agriculture; and education, with a focus on higher education. Graham will start by explaining why those issues are important to the region. The debate will be judged on which presidential candidate, or party platform, is best for Southern Illinois based upon those three topics, Graham said. Other than prepared opening speeches by Stephenson and Swetz, the debate will feature answers and rebuttals by the debaters, and their answers to audience questions. 

Graham said because most of the debates are at intercollegiate tournaments held far from Carbondale, this is a unique opportunity for the public to meet and watch debaters in action. 

“We are very much looking forward to it,” Graham said. “I would love for people to leave thinking how wonderful debate as an activity is, and how our team represents the university with pride.” 

Stephenson is from Torrance, Calif., and transferred to SIU Carbondale this year from El Camino Community College. Swetz is from Homewood. The pair will compete together again next year.