June 16, 2019 | 69° F

University debate team grapples over civility

Photo by Cameron Stroud |

School of Arts and Sciences seniors Kyle Bomeisl, left, Kevin Parks, center, and School of Arts and Sciences sophomore Chris Bergman argue over the existence of civility on campus.

The Rutgers University Debate Union engaged in an evening of parliamentary debate Tuesday at the Rutgers Student Center on the College Avenue campus to give students an inside look at how a civil debate works.

Members of the RUDU took opposing sides and contested whether the University lacks civility.

One side argued that the college-aged generation is too self-involved and hedonistic to be civil.

Debater David Reiss, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, said this generation is accustomed to instant gratification and left to depend less on others than generations before.

The opposing side debated that civility is in a college student's best interest.

The rule of reciprocity can influence a person's civility in reference to the golden rule — treat others as you wish to be treated, said Kyle Bomeisl, a School of Arts and Sciences senior.

They also argued that the existence of Project Civility on campus could mean that college students are actually civil.

The debate was one of many events held at the University as part of Project Civility, a two-year, University-wide program on campus.

Agnes Buda, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, enjoyed the debate, as well as the campaign as a whole.

"I think this is a wonderful idea. It's very interesting, and also very necessary for the students and our society in general at this time," Buda said. "It was great. [The debaters] spoke really well."

Mark Schuster, one of the co-directors of Project Civility, attended the debate exhibition, and said the campaign was going according to plan.

"Overall, I think it's going as well as we hoped and planned. We're excited about it," said Schuster, senior dean of students.

Some found the debate itself is a representation of civility, citing its refined and respectful manner.

"We, as debate club members, always try to put pride into what we do, in terms of trying to make our arguments respectable," said Stephen Yellin, an RUDU member. "Even if they're completely contradictory sometimes to what we believe in."

Other students agree with Yellin and find a civil debate can come in handy when discussing opposing issues.

"A civil debate is the best. The argument does not get too heated and devolve into chaos," said Eric Solomon, a School of Arts and Sciences junior.

Aside from the debate that occurred on stage, students themselves have their own opinions on the presence of civility on the University's campus.

"I think there is [civility on campus]," Solomon said. "Rudeness and animosity may seem more prominent because they are more visible, but there definitely is an underlying theme of civility on campus, regardless."

In light of the recent death of University first-year student Tyler Clementi, Yellin said he was impressed the community came together.

"In terms of proportions, I had not seen something like this at any University, until what happened here at Rutgers," Yellin said. "Thousands of people came together because of the ideal that was violated."

Ilana Bloom, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, said the cohesiveness of the campus shown at the protest by the Westborough Baptist Church last year demonstrated the University's civility.

"When [the protestors] came, it was so beautiful how students from all walks of life came to support each other," Bloom said. "In general, I think there is a certain respect between students."

Liz Swern

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