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Notre Dame, Navy students to contest universal basic income in inaugural debate

| Friday, November 15, 2019

Notre Dame and Navy will meet for the 93rd annual year on the football field Saturday. Friday afternoon, an entirely new rivalry between the two schools will begin in Hesburgh Library.

Sponsored by the department of Film, Television and Theatre, the inaugural Notre Dame-Navy debate will take place from 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. in the Carey Auditorium, and will be free and open to the public.

Susan Ohmer, Notre Dame director of debate and the William T. and Helen Kuhn Carey Associate Professor of Modern Communication, said she was approached by Navy students in August to set up the debate. Ohmer said the debate will serve as a way to extend the relationship between Notre Dame and the Naval Academy. 

“We see this as another way for our schools to engage with each other off the field and really show the different talents of our schools,” Ohmer said. “The Midshipmen are smart and well educated as well, and they’re really preparing for this … and we really like the idea of extending the tradition of engaging with Navy in a new way.”

Junior Conrad Palor and sophomore Patrick Aimone will represent Notre Dame in the debate, while junior Will Lewis and senior Nick Gutierrez will debate on behalf of the Naval Academy. The debate topic — chosen as a joint effort between the four participants — will be: “The United States should implement a universal basic income.”

Lewis, a junior midshipman, said he views the universal basic income question as a useful topic in today’s society. 

“It’s not only a hot topic when it comes to the presidential election cycle, but also it’s a topic that a lot of economists are debating,” Lewis said. “Both [Gutierrez] and I are economics majors here at Navy, so it’s something that we’re interested in, and we’re glad that it’s something [the] Notre Dame debaters were also interested in.”

To allow both debate teams to prepare adequate research for the debate, a coin flip determined the positions of the debaters, Aimone said. Notre Dame will represent the affirmative argument for the implementation of universal basic income, and Navy will rebut with the negative argument. 

To determine the winner, the audience will be polled before and after the debate. Whichever team sways more votes from the audience for their side, wins. 

Aimone said the structure of the debate allows the audience to leave the debate with a different mindset regarding public policies.  

“I think it’s a really good practice for members of the American body to be listening to and participating in active debates over public policy because debate allows you to be exposed to a variety of different arguments, and also to start to refine your own,” Aimone said. “It’s the opposite of being an echo chamber. It’s a structured environment where you can guarantee that you will be exposed to both sides of an argument in a scenario that is hopefully going to lend itself toward the truth of the argument, as opposed to a shouting match.”

Palor, a junior and president of the Notre Dame debate team, said the debate complements the historic football game by also demonstrating the rigor of Notre Dame and Navy students in the academic world.

“I mean, it’s being held in the Hesburgh Library, and I think metaphorically that Hesburgh Library is known for ‘Touchdown Jesus,’ which is emblematic of football here on campus, but it’s also a home for a litany of academic resources,” Palor said. “Having conversations on the basis of public policy … really highlights some of the academic questions that both the Naval Academy and Notre Dame wrestle with on a daily basis.”

Lewis shared his hopes of Notre Dame traveling to Navy next year and for the debate to continue in the following years.

“I think it’s going to be a really great tradition between our two schools and something that I think everybody can really enjoy regardless of the outcome on Friday afternoon,” Lewis said.

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About Alysa Guffey

Alysa is a junior and currently serves as Editor-in-Chief. She is pursuing a major in history with minors in digital marketing and journalism. While she calls Breen-Phillips her home on campus, she is originally from Indianapolis. Follow her on Twitter: @AlysaGuffeyNews

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