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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Debate society demonstrates chops to first years

Published: September 6, 2013
Section: News

Mandel G03 was filled to capacity Tuesday night as students witnessed the first meeting and demonstration round of the Brandeis Academic Debate and Speech Society (BADASS). The room came to a hush as Sarah Pizzano ’16 opened the meeting with a presentation on the team and their history—they are currently ranked second in the nation, only behind Yale. The team debates in a parliamentary style, where two two-person teams, the government and the opposition, debate a case.

The debate began with the “Prime Minister” of the government side, David Altman ’15 (also the president of the team), who read the case to be argued. The topic involved hate crimes, which include rape and assault. It addressed the 40 percent decrease in hate crimes since a 2009 piece of legislation signed by President Obama that views any act against a person because of their sexual orientation, gender or gender identity as a federal hate crime. As Prime Minister, Altman argued that with enhanced punishment for all hate crimes, the rate of such crimes would decrease even further.

He argued that hate crimes are even more heinous acts than standard theft or battery because they distribute more psychological damage to the victim, since that person feels as if his identity caused the act. Altman also claimed that hate crimes affect the whole community since all people of one gender or religion in an area could feel frightened by the possibility of another attack. Lastly, he mentioned that hate crimes pose a bigger threat to society, and as an egalitarian society, we should stand for less hate crime.

The leader of the opposition, Megan Elsayed ’14 followed his speech. She attacked the government’s idea that we need harsher punishments for hate crimes because all crimes are hate crimes, which drew a large reaction from the audience, as they are allowed to bang on their desks to agree with a point as if they were in Parliament.

Elsayed then proposed the idea that a society should not spend more money putting people away, but instead, use it to rehabilitate individuals so they do not commit the same crimes again. She dismissed the usefulness of the criminal justice system, claiming that it renders offenders unable to compete for a job after prison so they can no longer lead a normal life. Lastly, she argued that deterrents will not stop people from committing hate crimes in the first place. She claimed that the government’s data, which pronounced a 40 percent decrease in hate crimes, was plain wrong.

These constructives were then followed by responses by the other members of each team, Russell Leibowitz ’14 for the government and Shira Almeleh ’14 for the opposition. The government tried to rebuild their argument, then the opposition tried to knock it down. The floor was opened up to the audience to ask questions and gain further clarification on the issues. The demonstration round finished with the opposition’s rebuttal and the government’s rebuttal from Altman, both making their final arguments in an effort to convince the audience to side with them.

The demonstration provided a reminder of the rights we hold as American citizens to debate issues without fearing retribution.