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ISU public debate on Syrian refugee crisis: winning team argued that United States should accept 1 million refugees

November 16, 2015
ISU Marketing and Communications

POCATELLO – Idaho State University senior Nate Graves and freshman Ethan Likness, arguing that “the United States should accept 1 million Syrian refugees over the next five years,” won the public debate at the Pond Student Union on Nov. 5.

The outreach event for the Rupp Debate Team drew a capacity crowd of 50 people that was a diverse mix of students, staff, faculty and community members to the Middle Fork of the Salmon River Suites. The winner was decided by the audience, which voted before the debate in order to establish a baseline opinion measurement, and again after the debate, to gauge the shift in opinion that resulted from the arguments presented by each side.

The debate included three rounds: during the first round, each of the four speakers delivered a five-minute speech supporting his team’s position; during the second round, or the “crossfire round,” the audience asked the speakers questions; and during the third round, the speakers delivered three- to four-minute closing statements.

Graves and Likness argued that since the United States is a nation of immigrants, it has a moral imperative to accept the Syrian refugees. The negative team, or opposition, comprised of freshman Jack Bradley and senior Michael Mares, countered that the United States should not accept the refugees, but rather, should invade Syria to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). They argued that simply accepting 1 million refugees would only help one-quarter of the estimated 4 million total Syrian refugees displaced by the ongoing Syrian Civil War, which began in 2011.

Instead, they proposed that a U.S. ground intervention to stabilize the situation by defeating ISIS would help all Syrians, and was the best way to ensure an end to the refugee crisis. Graves and Likness refuted the negative team’s counter plan with the argument that U.S. military interventions haven’t always been successful. They offered the examples of Vietnam and Iraq.

Prior to the debate, 29 percent of audience members voted in favor of the motion, 33 percent were opposed to it, and 38 percent were undecided. Following the debate, 50 percent were in favor, and 50 percent were opposed. Thus, despite the fact that audience opinion was evenly split following the contest, it shifted slightly in favor of the affirmative team of Graves and Likness, giving them the win because their audience support increased by 21 percentage points while the opposition’s support increase by 17 percentage points. All four speakers were members of the ISU Rupp Debate Team.

For more information about the team, contact Head Coach Sarah Partlow Lefevre at partsara@isu.edu.


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