By Carly Watson
EAST LANSING, Mich. — Students on the Michigan State University Debate Team returned to campus early to get a head start on preparing for their competitive season.
The Debate Team already knows the topic they will be debating all year – legal personhood for nature, nonhuman animal species, or artificial intelligence – and are using this time to get ready.
“Debate is primarily research-driven,” said Kevin McCaffrey, MSU Debate Assistant Coach. “Students spend hundreds of hours researching the season-long topic to be able to debate it well.”
MSU participates in intercollegiate policy debate where students compete in teams of two and are required to debate both sides of the resolution.
Teams on the affirmative will argue that legal rights and/or duties should be vested in nature, nonhuman animal species, or artificial intelligence and teams on the negative will respond by highlighting the consequences of creating new entities that can be held liable or bear rights.
Debaters returned to campus last Monday to hone their debate skills and talk about the new topic. The debaters have done practice speeches, attended lectures, and spent time researching.
“We like to get students on campus early so they have time to focus on debate before classes start. It also gives them a chance to bond as a team,” said McCaffrey.
In addition to preparing, the debaters have spent their time together playing games like euchre and ultimate Frisbee.
“You can imagine that when you get a group of competitive people together the euchre games get pretty intense but ultimately it’s a great opportunity for the team to get to know each other,” said Will Repko, MSU Head Debate Coach.
Students currently on the team have joined MSU Debate from all over the country and one student even debated in China in high school.
“This is an exciting year for the team because we have many incredibly talented students returning and we also have several gifted students joining the team this year,” Repko said.
Debaters typically attend several tournaments a semester and need to balance rigorous preparation and tough competition with their academic work.
The first tournament for MSU Debate this year is the Owen L. Coon Memorial Tournament hosted by Northwestern University in mid-September.
The MSU Debate team is part of the Honors College.