University of Rochester has a diverse community with students from all over the world. Sometimes the cultural barriers handicap the communications between different groups of students. To facilitate more mutual understanding between cultures, on November 22nd, the UR Debate Union used a public debate to take a closer look at whether arranged marriages should be banned in Southeast Asia.
The public debate was moderated by URDU Business Manager Junior Ndlovu and URDU Scribe Katelyn Offerdahl. The program featured eight debaters from UR Debate Union and the Association for Development of Interest in the Indian Subcontinent(ADITI). On the affirmative side, URDU Webmaster Christopher Perkins was the Prime Minister, member of ADITI leadership board Hira Alama was the Deputy Prime Minister, URDU debater Benjamin Frazer was the Member of Government, and member of ADITI leadership board Kavyasri Nagumotu was the Government Whip. On the negative side, President of URDU Syed “Reefat” Aziz was the Leader of Opposition, President of ADITI Harleen Kaur Girgla was the Deputy Leader of Opposition, URDU debater Graeme C. McGuire was the Member of Opposition and URDU debater Abdulwahab “Abdul” Alhaji was the Opposition Whip. The debate featured students of all ages, including four freshmen: Hira Alam, Benhamin Frazer, Kavyasri Nagumotu, and Graeme C. McGuire.
During the speech, the affirmative side talked about the nature of marriage, classism and emotional blackmail, which were criticized by the negative side as the white savior complex. The negative side discussed topics ranging from cultural relativism to third wave feminism. The core of the debate came down to the two major clashes — cultural collectivism vs. individualism and second-wave feminism vs. third-wave feminism.
The public debate attracted a lot of people. During the speeches, many people were taking notes and, after the debate round, people lined up to deliver floor speeches. Some audience members from cultures where arranged marriages are prominent talked about the first-hand experiences with the topic and clarified variations across different countries. Some audience members also talked about questions they had about the topic and the way this public debate changed their ideas regarding arranged marriages.
As we said in the last pages of the program distributed to audience members, the purpose of public debates is to inform the university community about contemporary issues. UR Debate Union is always dedicated to presenting the controversial issues to the public and giving public a chance to consider issues they might otherwise ignore.
Thank you for all the support we received from our great co-sponsors: Association for Development of Interest in the Indian Subcontinent(ADITI), Student Association for the Development of Arab Cultural Awareness(SADACA), Pan African Students’ Association(PASA), Delta Phi Omega Rochester, UR D’lions, Muslim Students’ Association(MSA), and Hindu Students’ Association(HSA).