Cabin Fever Debates end with a bang

Judy Jessen (left) and Heather Guthrie (right) from team Alaskan Assassins took home the top prize of $1,000 for their opposition arguments during the final round of the Cabin Fever Debates on March 7, 2013.

Judy Jessen (left) and Heather Guthrie (right) from team Alaskan Assassins took home the top prize of $1,000 for their opposition arguments during the final round of the Cabin Fever Debates on March 7, 2013.

The final Cabin Fever Debates were the heat of discussion at UAA the night of March 7. What started out as a staggering 32 teams boiled down to a showdown between the final four in a debate to win a $1,000 cash prize. The annual Cabin Fever Debates were created in 2006 as a way for students to team up and express opinions about current issues.

“This competition serves as a venue for students to learn about current policy issues nationally and locally, and engages them to develop their critical thinking skills,” Amie Stanley, UAA alumna and Seawolf Debate team assistant coach, said. “It also provides an opportunity to develop arguments and speak publicly in front of a large but friendly audience in a safe environment where the positions they represent may not be their own because of the academic nature of debate as an exercise in critical thinking.”

The final teams included “YOLOSWAG” with Blake Steenhoven and Melanie Leydon,  “Alaskan Assassins” with Heather Guthrie and Judy Jessen, “Sweet Dee and the Gang” with Adam Jackson and Ryan Murrell and “Pegasus” with Michael Jurasek and Jeremy Johnson.

Steenhoven, economics senior from team YOLOSWAG, joined the Cabin Fever Debates because he has been debating since high school and wanted a fun way to get back into it, adding that the prize money doesn’t hurt either.

“The biggest challenge is definitely the style of debate,” Steenhoven said. “British Parliamentary is very unique and different than any format I’ve ever competed in.”

There have been a variety of topics covered this semester ranging from legalized DNA collection, in utero genetic manipulation, passing “right to work legislation” and limiting online courses for students who have geographical and distance barriers that prevent them from getting to college.

Adam Jackson, International Studies senior from team “Sweet Dee and the Gang,” said it’s a challenge to juggle academic studies and researching for the debates. Because Jackson is in his senior year, it is his last chance to participate in the debates.

Jeremy Johnson was a part of the opposition argument for abolishing tax exemptions during the final round of the Cabin Fever Debates on March 7, 2013.

Jeremy Johnson was a part of the opposition argument for abolishing tax exemptions during the final round of the Cabin Fever Debates on March 7, 2013.

“If I am here to do them again next year, then something in my plans went horribly, horribly wrong,” Jackson said jokingly.

The final motion, “This house would abolish tax-exempt status for churches,” sparked a back and forth discussion between the finalists, as well as plenty of engagement from the audience.

The Alaskan Assassins won the final round and were named the 2013 Cabin Fever Debates champions. The team was the first opposition of the debate, arguing that churches need tax-exempt status in order to survive and allow members to worship without worrying about fees. Guthrie and Jessen earned a $1,000 prize to split between them.

Each of the remaining semifinalist teams took home a $200 prize to split. Steenhoven took home an additional $100 for winning the Quianna Clay Prize for Excellence in Debating.

While the Cabin Fever Debates have concluded this year, students will have plenty of time to think about signing up next spring.

“One of the hallmarks of our program is that our practices are open to any UAA student to come watch. If you truly want to be a good debater, there’s no reason to delay working on your debate skills,” Stanley said. “And don’t be afraid of failure — everyone fails at something, but fear of something unknown is no reason to avoid the discovery of a talent or passion you possess. Debate just might be your thing.”

If students haven’t gotten enough debate action, the Seawolf Debate team is still in full swing, meeting every Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. and Friday at 9:30 p.m. for practice in the Administrative/Humanities Building, Room 166.

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