THURSDAY, OCTOBER 8, 2009
First Repeat Discipline (Mathematics)
First Alumni Participant (non-faculty)
First Debate to be Twittered Live

Scott Turner--Political Science
Gary Packwood--Music
John Bawden--History
Cedric Norman--Alumni, Marketing, Communication Studies
Billy Clow--The Arts
Benton Tyler--Mathematics
Steven Parker--Devil's Advocate

MC: Michael Patton

And the Oar goes to…

Benton Tyler!

Yes, the winner of the 12th Annual Life Raft Debate is Benton Tyler (Mathematics)! Benton’s win makes math the first repeat discipline to win the Life Raft Debate. Dr. Tyler’s defense had something to do with him being a better teacher than all other math teachers, everything depending on math, having guns, knowing judo and having a roll of duct tape. Hey, I didn’t really understand it, but I one get one vote.

And that vote really mattered this year. Despite having the record number of votes cast (over 470), this year’s decision was by the slimmest margin ever. If we weren’t using scantron technology, I fear the recount would have been going on still. As a witness to each of the 12 Life Raft Debates at UM, I must say that this one was, well, special. Not just because it was webcast live and tweeted about on UMLifeRaft, but because the participants threw themselves into the task with unparalleled zeal.

Scott Turner (Political Science), bursting with pride over his humility, begged the audience to make history and make him the only two-time champion.

Gary Packwood (Music) painted a bleak picture of life without music and even had a celestial chorus in the crowd to provide a demonstration.

John Bawden (History) promised that he could be a trusted advisor to whomever became the despot in the new world, using all his knowledge of history to steer this tyrant in the direction of benevolence. And he had a PowerPoint show.

Cedric Norman (Alum, Marketing, Comm. Studies) said that he would relaunch the advertising business in the new world, I think. He also said he’d get women to stop trying to talk to men during football games, much to 51% of the crowd’s chagrin. He pointed out all successful people need to market themselves and communicate, promised to listen to people and run like hell from mutant squids. In the end, he pleaded solidarity with the students in the audience and begged for the last seat on the boat.

Billy Clow (Dean of Fine Arts, Theater) defended all of the arts, claiming that everything came from one art form or another. He certainly demonstrated a knowledge of theater history, as he performed a crowd-pleasing burlesque show, shedding his suit as he was pleading his case.

Finally, Benton Tyler (Mathematics) gave an impassioned defense of the glories of math, without which it seems we wouldn’t have alarm clocks. He also convinced me that he was ready to go off the grid and be a survivalist, so he’s got that going for him.

After a raucous give and take, Devil’s Advocate Steve Parker claimed the audience should let all the panelists drown, since each of them was simply trying to sow the seeds of self-doubt in the minds of the audience, who would do better to trust themselves.

After all the shouting, stripping, singing and threatened gunplay was over, the votes were cast, Dr. Tyler was pulled aboard the raft, given the coveted Oar, and he and the audience set sail for New Jerusalem. The rest of the panel bickered among themselves until they slipped beneath the waves, to find eternal repose in the briny deep.

Thanks to everyone who participated, watched live or on the web or followed the debate on twitter. It couldn’t happen without all of you. And, as I said, it was special.