The event has a long history at the University: The Brown Debating Union has hosted the Radcliffe Hicks competition since 1882. This was the first time Simmons has served as a judge. Tournament director Gabriel Schwartz ’13 says the group made a point of planning the event around Simmons’ schedule so that she could attend. Traditionally the tournament consists of five 30-minute rounds. There are some big prizes on the line: $1,500 for second place and $2,000 for first place.
Sam Magaram ’12 and Dan Sherrell ’13 found themselves in the final round and face-to-face with Simmons and the other judges after four hard-won rounds over two days. Both had to present their arguments based on the statement, “Brown should accept research funding from private corporations, under the conditions that the funding corporations could patent the resulting research if they so wish.”
A coin toss determined that Magaram would take the affirmative stance and Sherrell would oppose. Each student made a strong case on the fly, furiously scribbling talking points on paper as the other presented his points. Magaram argued that allowing research to be privately funded would enhance the University’s profile and provide more research opportunities for students and faculty, while Sherrell asserted that doing so would give Brown the image of “selling out” and limit research opportunities by handing control over to the funding corporations.
Following the debate, the judges were given 15 minutes to deliberate. In addition to Simmons, the other judges were Shiva Balaghi, postdoctoral fellow in the Cogut Humanities Center; Richard Bungiro, lecturer in biology; Kurt Teichert, environmental stewardship initiatives manager; and Nathaniel Baum-Snow, assistant professor of economics. All agreed that both debaters did a great job of presenting their points, deeming them “super smart,” but in the end they decided that it was Magaram who made the stronger argument. A reception followed the debate, where Simmons added her congratulations to the finalists and mingled with students.