UNT debates against British universities on Ebola

UNT debates against British universities on Ebola

October 13
23:58 2014

Steven James / Staff Writer

Nearly 300 people attended UNT Debate’s competition against the British National Debate Team as they argued last Friday whether or not the World Health Organization should have the power to close borders.

The British team argued in favor of the organization gaining this power, focusing on the ongoing Ebola epidemic. UNT team argued that closing borders would be too big an overreach of the World Health Organization’s authority.

At times, it got snippy.

“Let us not forget that if Rick Perry cannot secure a border, then no one can,” said UNT’s first debater, communication studies master’s student Matea Ivanovič. . “When sovereignty is violated without consent, that is known as war, something that our opponents should be quite familiar with.”

Each debater had five minutes to argue the topic. After each individual debater would give her opinion, a member of the opposing team would come up to the podium for cross-examination, asking the debater questions about why she gave the opinions she did. After the argument and cross-examination sections of the program, members of the audience were allowed to ask the debaters questions on the topic.

UNT was represented by Ivanovič and fellow communication studies master’s student Hilary St. John. The British team was represented by University of Oxford international relations doctoral candidate Kate Brooks and recent University of Bristol English literature graduate Alice Huntley.

After introducing UNT Debate President Hope Sauceda, UNT’s debate director Brian Lain gave opening remarks.

“The world has turned its attention to Dallas in the last few weeks with the announcement of the first Ebola case in the U.S.,” Lain said. “There is much uncertainty, anxiety and fear with the disease.”

Huntley was the first to debate. She argued that in order to keep Ebola from spreading, infected areas must be quarantined.

“We think less people would die worldwide,” she said. “This affects the whole world. You cannot just do it as one country.”

Next to debate was Ivanovič, who argued that forced segregation would negatively impact a country’s health, impose on the country’s authority and affect the way countries fight diseases. She also said that the closing of borders would prevent doctors and medical supplies from getting into infected countries.

“Ultimately, this argument is not about whether closing borders is beneficial, but whether the World Health Organization should be in this position to force this power on others,” she said. “Even with screening, the policies the British team suggested mean that people, including doctors, will be too afraid they might not get to leave, and this will physically delay aid efforts through paperwork and screening.”

Brooks argued that doctors who do not want to go into certain countries will stay out of those countries, unless they have good reasons to do so.

“These people don’t want to risk going into a country where they won’t leave,” Brooks said. “These people who are willing to put their lives on the line, it’s not like the possibility of having to rebook their flights will be the thing that deters them. Closing borders isn’t entirely effective, but it’s better than doing nothing.”

St. John said that quarantining infected areas could make healthy people sick.

“It seems irresponsible to brand any external organization the right to segregate entire populations of people when we know that it increases the risk of being infected,” St. John said. “People aren’t freaking out because Ebola is in their country, they’re freaking out because rebel organizations are telling them that ebola is a scam that was introduced by the government in order to get kidneys.”

Next, audience members asked the debaters questions, after which UNT’s Student Government Association President Troy Elliott ended the program with closing remarks.

UNT Debate’s next competition will be against the Rwandan International Debate Team Dec. 2.

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