Debate facility to debut in new building

The university will include a debating chamber in the construction of Scharbauer Hall at the site of the former student center, a university official said.

The chamber will allow faculty and students to practice and strengthen their rhetorical skills and exchange ideas with one another, said Nowell Donovan, provost and vice chancellor of academic affairs.

“The whole idea is bravery and that you’re brave enough to stand down there in the middle of a group of people and you can defend an argument,” Donovan said. “A lot of people can do it in writing, but there are few who do it effectively in debate and yet, our rhetorical skills are immensely important.”

Peggy Watson, director of the Honors Program, said the chamber will become a multi-use area for debates inside and outside the classroom.

Watson said the Honors Program will possibly have a program within the department that is geared toward public speaking and public debates, along with a possible debate program at TCU. The debating chamber gives students the opportunity to learn how to debate and gain public speaking skills, she said.

Multiple formats of debates will take place within the chamber, such as debates between Greek organizations, student and professor debates, and a possible debate series between faculty members, Donovan said.

Linda Hughes, Addie Levy professor of literature and chair of the Honors Council, said she hopes to see not only forensic debates but deliberative debates, as well.

“I’d like to see a very strong place for deliberative rhetoric where people try to persuade others to their points of views,” Hughes said.

Hughes said the debating chamber will give students and faculty the opportunity to learn how to think openly and not rush to judgments without hearing each side of an argument.

“It’s meant to be a catalyst to ensure TCU students and faculty have the courage and ability to present and defend arguments in a civilized way,” Donovan said.

The chamber will be located in the Honors Program area in Scharbauer Hall, Watson said.

The physical layout of the chamber will focus around the center and will have an oval-type seating arrangement, Donovan said.

Also, in an adjacent room from the main chamber, an annex that can be used as a reception room for guests will be a place to honor and acknowledge the achievements of faculty members and students alike, Donovan said.

Part of the space in between Scharbauer Hall and Reed Hall will be an outdoor area open for free and less formal debate, Donovan said.

If all goes as planned, the chamber will open in January 2010 and will have to be reserved for use, Donovan said.