FIRE Debates Recap: Debaters Disagree on Paying Student-Athletes, ‘Smart Drugs’ at Colleges, Without Being Disagreeable

November 5, 2015

The first two events in our FIRE Debates series drew hundreds to watch some of the country’s foremost experts in their respective fields debate two of the most divisive questions facing college students today.

In October, ESPN’s Jay Bilas and the NCAA’s Oliver Luck squared off at Texas A&M University to debate the motion “College athletes should be allowed to be paid.” Local and national media covered the event which, B. David Ridpath, writing for Forbes, called “entertaining, informative, and balanced,” while noting his admiration for FIRE.

No official winner was declared, but those in attendance and viewers watching our livestream took to twitter to weigh in on the action:

Twitter seemed to call the debate for Bilas:

If you missed it, you can watch the whole thing below:

Then on Monday, FIRE held its second debate in the series, in cooperation with Intelligence Squared U.S., “College Students Should Be Allowed to Take Smart Drugs.”

The panelists—four eminent bioethicists, doctors, and scholars—took the stage at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., to debate whether students should be allowed to take drugs like Adderall and Ritalin to enhance their academic performance.

Intelligence Squared polled the audience before and after the debate: At the outset, the largest portion of the audience (44%) was originally against the proposition, while nearly a third (29%) were undecided. At the end of the debate, the poll swung the other way, with more than half the audience (59%) now convinced students should be allowed to choose whether to take so-called smart drugs. Only 8% remained undecided.

The poll—and the fact that many audience members switched viewpoints during the course of the debate—showcases the critical need for open and robust discussion on divisive current events. It also supports the proposition that people can and do change their beliefs when they have access to more information. That’s why FIRE fights for students’ rights to hear conflicting viewpoints on campus, and encourages students to seek out ideas that conflict with their own.

The video of the debate is available on Intelligence Squared’s website, where you can also view a transcript.

FIRE Debates aim to bring the best and brightest to debate on college campuses across the country, to show students that frank and open discussion on controversial issues is healthy, productive, and fun.

Stay tuned to The Torch for an announcement of the next debate in our FIRE Debates series.