There are only
19th Annual Life Raft
Thursday, October 13th, 2016
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
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 2015 lineup:
Scott Varagona--Devil's Advocate
And the Oar goes to:
The Devil's Advocate: Dr. Scott Varagona!
After a spirited clash between the 5 contestants, Scott Varagona spent several minutes pointing out the shortcomings of each of the participants and their chosen disciplines, ending with an impassioned plea for self-reliance on the raft and beyond. While the disciplines may equip you to face challenges, in the end, you must face them yourself. Dr. Varagona asked, “How many of you would show up to your first day at a new job with one of your professors in tow to help you face the challenges?”
The win makes Scott, already a winner in a discipline with multiple wins, the first person to win two Life Raft Debates.
However, since he was not representing any discipline, the Life Raft Debate still awaits its first person to win twice in the same discipline. Nonetheless, Scott’s three consecutive appearances on the panel yielded a pretty spectacular result.
Oh, wait…he drowned 2 out of 3 times. Oh well. It is still nice to win twice, I guess...
Emcee Steve Parker made the appropriate pre-debate explanations and thanks and then introduced the participants. The debate started with Robert Barone defending his win in History. He urged continuity of leadership and stressed that a group divorced from knowledge of history was a group doomed to fail. In the course of the evening, he also partially disrobed and recited Poe’s The Raven. A baffled and perhaps frightened audience applauded wildly.
Next, Michael Patton pled his case for Philosophy. Well, actually, he went right into mocking the efficacy of the other disciplines. He finally made a case for Philosophy by claiming that the audience was on the verge of making a mistake on the order of electing Donald Trump by being led by emotion and passion rather than by reason. He cited Aristotle’s advice to let reason be one’s guide when it is appropriate, as it certainly is in matters of life and death
Claiming that there would definitely be drama on the boat after the catastrophe, Michael Walker insisted that Theater was the most needed discipline. Theater, he explained, dealt with such diverse need as the rituals surrounding birth, death and celebrations, the understanding of history through historical drama and comedy and the telling of stories that strike instinctual chords in all of us. Additionally, the practice of the theatrical arts teaches scheduling, critical thinking, logistics, memorization and a host of other needed skills.
After that, Gregory Longo did battle for Psychology by going dark. He pointed out that the catastrophe that got us here has left almost everyone dead. We are all emotionally devastated and need Psychology to find peace and well-being as we move forward. He also claimed that his discipline studied the things we will need to keep the human race going in our new home—proper child-rearing techniques and the psychology of attraction and love, needed for procreation.
Finally, Amiee Mellon took up the cause of Marketing. She argued that Marketing makes the world go ‘round by determining what gets bought and thus stoking the fires of the economy, without which we’d be in real trouble. Marketing is what shapes peoples’ behavior, and we can use it to make life better in the new world. She touted some very successful marketing campaigns that were near and dear to all and finished with an original, Minions-accompanied rap song about marketing. Say what you will, but the crowd bought it.
And last but not least, Robert Barone took the mic to argue once again for History. A veteran of the very first debate, Robert announced that the oar had been stolen from him back in 1998 and that he was back to become its rightful owner. His impassioned defense of history claimed that without history as a guide, we would repeat all of the mistakes that have plagued the world to date, including the mistakes that eventually destroyed the world. With his thoroughgoing knowledge of history, Robert said he would be able to steer the nascent society safely through the perils the lie ahead. Plus, he gave a brief yet compelling demonstration of his own physical fitness and ability to stretch.
608 in-house votes were cast by a crowd of over 800, along with many votes received on Twitter, and when the counting was done, Dr. Varagona won by a large margin.
100 people followed Lily Elmore’s live tweets, 48 different viewers watched the live stream, including a crowd of 20 watching from Eclipse Coffee and Books.
This may not be my most complete re-hash in LRD history, but it was hard to take notes and participate from the stage. It is never possible to capture the magic that is the Life Raft Debate in a few mere words, so please watch the video of the whole shebang on YouTube here.
Like us on FaceBook and follow us on Twitter at #UMLifeRaft!
Jay Cofield and the crew providing the video coverage
Lily Elmore (for live tweeting)
Marion Brown and her minions
Kristen Gilbert for vote counting via scantron
SGA (for funding)
Philosophy club members (president Jacob Robertson)
All participants, past and future
And last, but not least—All the great audiences!
If you missed the debate this year, watch it here.
The Life Raft Debate on This American Life!
Save the Day
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
Watch the FREE webcast at 7 pm sharp!
Life Raft Debate Tidbits:
|There has never been a repeat champion
||Only Mathematics has won three oars
||79% of the Champions have come from the College of Arts and Sciences
||7% have come from the College of Fine Arts
||7% have come from the Administration
||7% have been civilians
Of the participants in the 16 previous debates,
||73% of the programs of instruction at the University of Montevallo
have been represented in the Life Raft Debate.