Cal Poly Students are Quarter-Finalists in Social Justice Debate Championship

The Cal Poly Debate Team participated in the Social Justice Debates’ Eastern Championship hosted by George Washington University from Nov. 17-18. Students Ryan Hund, Georgina Bailey, Sydney Adair, and James Hasbany finished the event as quarter-finalists arguing over the motion, "University speech regulations designed to protect racial minorities advance the cause of racial oppression.” Additionally, Mr. Hund and Mr. Hasbany both ranked in the top 10 most skilled speakers in the event’s speaker rankings. Also representing Cal poly were Parker Swanson, Alyssa Manno, the debate program’s director, Chris Skiles, and assistant director, John Patrick. 

The central scholarship for the 2018-2019 social justice debate series organized around the work of Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University.  More specifically, the debates examined his scholarship on hate speech including his book chapter, War of Words: Critical Race Theory and the First Amendment. In War of Words, Professor Gates suggests that speech regulations designed to protect minorities are destined to be used against them. In doing so, Professor Gates quotes critical race theorist Charles Lawrence for the proposition that “by framing the debate as we have—as one in which the liberty of free speech is in conflict with the elimination of racism—we have advanced the cause of racial oppression and placed the bigot on the moral high ground, fanning the rising flames of racism.”

Prior to the event, the Cal Poly Debate Team delegation met with Senator Kamala Harris’ deputy lead council and Representative, Salud Carbajal, to discuss the role of free speech in American society.  Discussion topics explored the ways in which regulating speech may be helpful and harmful to university students of minority status. The trip culminated with a visit to the National Archives to view the Constitution, Declaration of Independence, and Magna Carta for a period of quiet reflection on the Articles of Freedom's role in advancing the cause of social justice.

In addition to academic debate professionals from around the country, George Washington University organized an outstanding slate of judges from across the political spectrum with a variety of professional field experience. Debaters at the event were evaluated by the following professionals: 

April Callen is the Strategy & Outreach Associate at the Frameworks Institute, a nonprofit organization aspiring to advance the nonprofit sector's communication capacity by identifying, translating, and modifying relevant scholarly research to frame public discourse on social problems.  

Danielle Apugo is an Assistant Professor of Urban Education at the University of the District of Columbia whose areas of expertise include identifying and investigating the visible barriers that exist in the professional and academic experiences of Black Women within educational organizations, generational public education experiences, peer relationships, optimal and suboptimal sustainability strategies, space making, identity affirmation, and racial vigilance. 

Derek Malone-France is a GWU Associate Professor of Religion and Philosophy whose areas of expertise include the political and social philosophy of liberalism and dissent. 

Hans von Spakovsky is a senior legal fellow in The Heritage Foundation’s Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies and the manager of the think tank’s Election Law Reform Initiative. 

Jordan S. West is the Inaugural GWU Director of Diversity & Inclusion Education responsible for creating and implementing educational opportunities that promote a positive and just campus climate. 

Julian Dotson is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the District of Columbia Urban Debate league. Founded in 2002, the DC Urban Debate hosts the Metropolitan Speech and Debate tournament Series. 

Matthew Feeney is the director of Cato’s Project on Emerging Technologies, where he works on issues concerning the intersection of new technologies and civil liberties. Before coming to Cato, Matthew worked at Reason magazine as assistant editor of 

Michael R. Wenger is a Senior Fellow at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, the nation's pre-eminent research and public policy analysis institution focusing on issues of race.  

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