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MSU Debates the University of Michigan for the Future of the Automotive Industry

By Carly Watson

Michigan State University Debate participated in an exhibition debate against the University of Michigan at the North American International Propulsion Conference hosted by SAE International.

David Koster, a political science and economics junior in the Honors College, and Tony Miklovis, a social relations and policy and international relations sophomore in the Honors College, represented MSU.

Over 300 people from across the automotive industry attended the debate moderated by John McElroy of Blue Sky Productions.

“David and Tony spent months preparing to showcase MSU and MSU Debate,” said Will Repko, MSU Debate Head Coach. “They had to fully learn the topic since it’s different from the season-long competitive college topic.”

The theme for this year’s North American International Propulsion Conference was “Driving Strategies to Carbon Neutrality” and the debate opened the conference to frame ongoing conversations.

As the auto industry strives for zero emissions and is in the process of transitioning away from internal combustion engines, the topic asked whether electric vehicles are the optimal solution for achieving carbon neutrality in the transportation sector.

As the affirmative team, the University of Michigan defended the topic “electric vehicles are the optimal solution for achieving carbon neutrality.”

MSU was selected as the negative team and argued that electric vehicles are a part of the solution but that there are other alternatives and considerations to factor in to the decision.

Over the past several months, Koster and Miklovis met regularly with industry experts to research, prepare, and hone their arguments for the debate. They also participated in a mock debate for specialists to ensure that they mastered the technical aspects of the topic.

“When you debate in front of experts in the field, you are held to an even higher standard. We didn’t just have to persuade a judge but we had to be able to debate a complex topic for people who spend their entire professional lives thinking about this issue,” said Repko.

Following the debate, McElroy facilitated an audience question session where the students debating had to be prepared to answer questions from conference attendees.

“They could ask anything so that’s one of the more challenging things to prepare for,” said Repko.

This event follows a rich tradition of public debates where MSU Debate has facilitated conversations over timely issues.

The MSU Debate team is part of the Honors College.

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