The great debate: SMC faces off with the British National Team

“Look, we are fallible. We cannot give you the Rolls Royce of Gender equity. We can give you the Honda Civic” said Filip Krasovsky as he went into a counter argument supporting the belief that gender equity is possible, “My problem particularly, is that our friends our painting it as a Chevy Nova. A bad car! But not our Honda Civic.”

A packed audience of Santa Monica College students laughs at Krasovsky’s metaphor. It’s one of the more entertaining moments during the debate between the SMC Debate Team and the visiting British National Debate team held at the main stage of the theater arts building on Tuesday, September 29th.

The event – which was sponsored by the Associated Students of SMC, SMC Associates, the Committee for International Discussion and Debate, the National Communication Association and the Communication and Media Studies Department of SMC – featured the team of Krasovsky and fellow student Stephen Sands representing SMC. They faced off against visiting opponents Chessy Whalen and Matthew Wilmore, two champion debaters from the UK, to discuss the topic of whether or not gender equity was a possibility in the modern world.

“Even when we do use laws though, often the most vulnerable women are not protected,” passionately countered Whalen early on in the debate. “The equal pay act may have been enacted, but decades later we are still so far away from [equity]."

Tasked with the opposing position, Whalen and Wilmore argued that gender equity was effectively impossible unless a radical attitudinal shift occurred in society than the more commonly seen argument that gender equity doesn’t exist based on statistical evidence. This strategy ended up framing the majority of the debate, which primarily centered on whether gender equity should be achieved through slow and steady legislative action or mass populist upheaval.

“Statistics are very easy to disprove with another statistical survey,” said Whalen later about her team’s debate strategy. “The other option is to suggest that gender equity is not something we should be striving for, which is just not something that I could say in public, or even in private.”

Whalen and Wilmore may only have needed to use rhetoric to convince the audience, as both are seasoned debaters with years of experience under their belts; Wilmore himself being the 2014 European Debate Champion. The pair is successful enough that they’re now touring the US in a debate circuit as a sort of victory lap before starting their professional careers. Going against a team with such accolades, the odds were definitely stacked against Krasovsky and Sands.

The home team held their own though, especially when Sands countered Whalen’s closing statements with some powerful words, “I think there’s been a fundamental misunderstanding here today. That the legislative change that’s occurred so far is the only legislative change that is going to happen. We never claimed that there isn’t inequity. We’ve claimed that there was more (in the past), it is solved, and through even more legislation ever more progress will be made. We started with the Nova, we have the Civic, and we’ll move to the Rolls Royce!”

The fact that the SMC team was able to compete against such heavyweights at all is an impressive comeback story. It took a coordinated effort by Professor Nate Brown and the many associations sponsoring yesterday’s event to raise funds for the SMC debate team, which was non-existent two years ago, a student run club last year, and is now a class that Brown teaches. With further fundraising Professor Brown hopes that the now official SMC debate team will be able to compete and gain national notice,” I hope that over the next several years Santa Monica College has a nationally award winning speech and debate team. We should be able to brag like other colleges do that we are national debate champions.”

After an hour, the battle of speeches, interjections, and rhetoric ended with the question of who won put to the audience. Though technical difficulties with voting software caused only a limited number of votes to come in before shutting down, the final tally was a direct 50-50 split. “We’ll just keep it at that. I like that,” said Krasovsky.

Though the audience may have been split officially, the debate sparked immense interest in many of the attendees, who asked a number of questions and presented their own points of view on the topic during the Q&A session that followed the vote. “It’s really more than just an argument,” said psychology major John Hann during the Q&A,” this has gotten us to think, but we have been thinking for so long. So long. What we need is to tap into emotions and feelings. We as men have been ignoring that for so long.”

From the other questions asked by the audience, an appreciation of the debate being presented seemed very apparent. “It was awesome!” said Caitlyn Hunter, an Anthropology major, “I think the SMC side won due to logical reasons, that legislation is the way to start, but the spirit behind the British team was definitely in the right place.”

Though there was no official winner both due to the split vote and the polling issues, it didn’t seem to matter to most of the attending audience, who appreciated the mere fact that the issue was brought to a public forum at all. Hann said afterward, “The discussion, the information... what’s inside the content is much more important than deciding who is a winner, who is a loser.”