When the TCU and Wiley College debate teams competed in March of 1935, the contest was not officially judged and seating was determined by the color of your skin.
Wednesday night in the Mary Couts Burnett Library’s Reading Room, hundreds of people of varying races came together and watched the teams compete again.
The judge’s panel included journalist E.R. Bill, whose article in the Fort Worth Magazine is responsible for the idea of a commemorative debate between the two schools.
In 1935, Wiley College was invited to compete against TCU’s debate team on the school campus. This marked the first interracial debate to take place on a southern college campus.
To celebrate the 80th anniversary of that historic debate, Wednesday night’s debate took place on the same day and at the same time as the one in 1935.
“That kind of coming together, that’s something that’s unprecedented,” said Benjamin Turner, a senior English major at Wiley College and one of the participants in the debate. “[We are] forging that new history and creating that new standard like they did 80 years ago.”
The debate itself focused on the topic of whether a citizen-focused police force is preferable to a militarized police force.
TCU argued for the former, while Wiley College sided with the latter.
“This is a big debate within America today,” said Kelsey Fahler, senior strategic communication major and president of the TCU Forensics team. “I think it’s important for voters to get opinions about that, and I think this debate allows for discussion for those voters,”
Fahler competed alongside Timothy Betts, sophomore philosophy major.
The two argued for a citizen-focused police force, stating that providing military weapons to police reinforces a “war-zone mindset,” and therefore are not necessary.
The team also pointed out there are other organizations, such as the National Guard, that are more equipped to handle situations where military weapons are needed and police should instead be used to defuse potentially violent situations.
“[Preparation] encompassed a lot of internet research, academic research, historic research and coming up with the best argument using that,” Fahler said.
The Wiley College team included Turner and sophomore Jesus Cardenas who argued that a militarized police force “is about preparedness.”
They elaborated by explaining militarization goes beyond supplying weapons and includes training for any situation a police officer could run into. The duo argued that controversial deaths caused by police such as Michael Brown and Eric Garner were caused by lack of training and not by militarization.
“We hated the idea of actually militarizing the police so the challenge was how do we debate a position that we don’t necessarily personally agree with?” Turner said. “So that means we set aside our feelings and find benefits of someone else’s philosophy.”
Several hundred people attended the debate including TCU Provost Nowell Donovan and Dr. David Whillock, Dean of the Schieffer College of Communication.