Life Raft Debate

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There are only

until the
17th Annual Life Raft Debate!
Thursday, October 9th, 2014
7:00 pm

Start treading water...

The Life Raft Debate

An Event that Spans Two Centuries (and two millennia)

In the Life Raft Debate, we imagine that there has been a nuclear war, and the survivors (the audience) are setting sail to rebuild society from the ground up.  There is a group of academic-types vying to get on the raft, and only one seat is left.  Each professor has to argue that his or her discipline is the one indispensable area of study that the new civilization will need to flourish.  At the end of the debating, the audience votes and the lucky winner climbs aboard, waving goodbye to the others. 

 Each professor gets to give an introductory account of his or her discipline, then give a brief rebuttal to the others, and, finally, the audience votes all but one panelist off.

The Life Raft Debate occurs each Founders' Day at 7 pm.

Here's the 2014 lineup:

Scott Varagona--Mathematics
Samantha Webb--Literature
Stacy Bishop--Kinesiology
Jeremy Carlson--Law
Robert Barone--History
John Stewart--Administration

lrd 2012



What's  New

bullet And the Oar goes to:

Dr. Scott Varagona of Mathematics!

Dr. Varagona

It was a night that was bound to be historic.

At the very least, another discipline would win for the second time (Philosophy, Sociology), a single person would win the oar for the second time (Steve Parker) or one discipline would win for the third time (Mathematics).

Brett Noerager led off the evening, explaining that Biology required one to deal with pee, poo and pus, that there was a 5% chance that humans were not responsible for global warming and that God was mad at humanity for something the Astros did.

Steve Parker followed, arguing that sociology was some sort of master science that studied all relationships between everything, everywhere and so would be able to knit us all into one harmonious group in the new world, presumably singing Kumbaya all day and night.

Scott Varagona argued that Mathematics was always with us, like a stalker, and that without math’s constant, creepy presence, we would have a much worse civilization in the next world

Next, Richmond West said that Eastern Philosophy entails that he does not exist, and neither do we. If I followed correctly, this means that as soon as we all admit we don’t exist, we will stop fighting each other and harmony will reign in the land. He also said that Yoda would agree with him.

And, finally, Pearce Durst said that everyone used Rhetoric all the time, at least when they were arguing or trying to persuade anyone of something. Since it could be used for good or evil, we’d be well-advised to bring an expert on rhetoric on the raft to ensure that there would be no foul play in the new society.

In the aftermath (get it?) of all the debate, defense, name-calling and baseball analysis, Scott walked away with the oar. With over 800 in attendance and over 600 votes cast, with a record number coming from our largest online audience ever, Mathematics became the first discipline to win three debates. Now someone has to figure out how to beat them next year…

If you missed the debate this year, watch it here.

bullet The Life Raft Debate on This American Life!


Mighty Mouse

Save the Day
Broadcast: Mar-12-2010

Stories about one person single-handedly taking charge of a situation gone wrong - including one man's mission to rescue two kids who were kidnapped by alleged murderers and taken to Mexico, and another about a professor's mission to keep the educators of a liberal arts college from extinction.


Download the mp3 of the Life Raft Debate segment from the This American Life episode "Save the Day" by clicking here. You can get the whole podcast episode on the This American Life home page.

This American Life will air a segment on UM’s Life Raft Debate during their episode “Save the Day,” which premiers this week. The episode will focus on the 2007 debate, during which Jon Smith scored the first-ever victory for the Devil’s Advocate.

If you cannot join us at Eclipse Coffee & Books Saturday at 2:00 pm for the Premier Party, the broadcast information is below or you can check your local listings.

We are also planning an event on campus once school resumes where we will rebroadcast the show and hear from some special guests. You can find the promo for this week's here:

This American Life on Facebook

bullet Watch the FREE webcast at 7 pm sharp!
(or anytime)
bullet Check out this coverage in the Shelby County Reporter


Life Raft Debate Tidbits:
bulletThere has never been a repeat champion
bullet Only Mathematics has won three oars
bullet 79% of the Champions have come from the College of Arts and Sciences
bullet 7% have come from the College of Fine Arts
bullet 7% have come from the Administration
bullet 7% have been civilians

Of the participants in the 16 previous debates,

bullet 57% have been from the College of Arts and Sciences
bullet 22% have been from the College of Fine Arts
bullet 10% have been from the College of Education
bullet 4% have been from the Michael E. Stephens College of Business
bullet 3% have been from Administration

1% have been “civilians.”

bullet 1% have been Alumni

Who's Representing?

bullet 73% of the programs of instruction at the University of Montevallo have been represented in the Life Raft Debate.

Key Milestones- Past Winners
Click on a name to learn more

bullet 2013 Scott Varagona-Mathematics
bullet 2012 Brett Noerager-Biology
bullet 2011 Kevin Hope-Physics
bullet 2010 Stephanie Batkie-Medieval Literature

2009 Benton Tyler-Mathematics

bullet 2008 Scott Turner-Political Science


2007  No One--The Devil's Advocate Prevails!
bullet 2006  Philip C. Williams-University Presidency
bullet 2005  Zack Foster-Culinary Arts
bullet 2004  Wilson Fallin‑History
bullet 2003  Stephen Parker‑Sociology
bullet 2002  Michael Patton‑Philosophy
bullet 2001  Luke Hardt‑‑Theater
bullet 2000  Pennie Ticen‑English
bullet 1999  Mike Hardig‑Biology
bullet 1998  Michael Sterner- Mathematics
 more ...

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This work by Michael F. Patton, Jr. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.