• Students participate in the preliminary rounds of the 2009 Books Prize Debate.
    Students participate in the preliminary rounds of the 2009 Books Prize Debate.

While the nation continues to debate the topic of health care, Southwestern students are planning to debate it as well.

“Resolved: A democratic society has an obligation to provide adequate health care for its citizens” is the topic for the preliminary rounds of the 2010 Brooks Prize Debate, a campus tradition that was revived last year.

The preliminary rounds will get under way on Nov. 6 during Homecoming Weekend, and continue throughout November. The final event will be held in late February or early March 2010.

Students who are interested in participating in the debate or the accompanying oratory competition must submit an application by Oct. 9. The topic for the preliminary rounds of the oratory competition is “Tradition.”

Unlike last year, students are now required to be sponsored by an academic department or student organization. Any professor can volunteer his or her department as a debate team sponsor without any financial or time commitment. The sponsoring department of the winning debate team will receive a monetary prize.

Debate organizer Sarah Gould said she made this change in an effort to incorporate a variety of academic voices in the debate.

“The cross-curricular nature of the debate and oratory events epitomizes the purpose of a liberal arts education and provides students and faculty with a forum for discussing the interconnectivity of academic departments through the lens of current events,” Gould said.

Gould developed the topic for this year’s preliminary debate rounds with help from Tim O’Neill, professor of political science, and David Olson, assistant professor of communication studies. Both were instrumental in helping with the debate last year as well.

“I knew that I wanted to focus on a topic that was pertinent to current conversation and after perusing old Brooks Prize Debate topics, I developed the one we are using for this year’s preliminary rounds,” Gould said.

The Brooks Prize Debate was initially started in 1878 by student literary societies, which were the dominant extra-curricular organizations for students’ academic and social life at that time. The debate was both a competition and a celebration of the academic spirit of Southwestern. The tradition died in the late 1920s until Gould and former student Matt Maschino revived it.

This year, Gould has formed a new Brooks Prize Debate Planning Council to plan the event with the aid of the Student Foundation. Gould said she is still accepting applications for council members.

For more information on the Brooks Prize Debate, contact Gould at goulds@southwestern.edu