ACU Team to Debate Russians on Society's Obligation to Homeless

for immediate release Oct. 31, 1997

Better communication usually leads to better understanding of other people in any situation.

Students at Abilene Christian University and the general public will learn more about another culture when ACU hosts the Russian Debate Delegation Monday, Nov. 3, as part of the National Communication Association's Committee on International Discussion and Debate.

Students Jay Hudson and Virginia Milstead will represent ACU in a public debate on society's obligation to the homeless at 7 p.m. in the Paine Auditorium (Room 201) of the Mabee Business Building. Hudson, a senior Bible major from El Paso, and Milstead, a junior English major from Moreno Valley, Calif., both placed in the national debate tournament in March with other partners.

"Discussion and debate is one way to help different cultures understand each other," said Dr. Jeffrey Hobbs, director of forensics at ACU. "The students will share in the marketplace of ideas. It's really good for American students to meet people from other countries, which they already have done through our international students. But this is the first time these students will debate someone from another country. We will see how we argue points is not necessarily the way they argue them."

The debate supports ACU's ongoing efforts to globalize its curriculum.

"We are encouraging our students to take advantage of this opportunity to expand their worldview," said Dr. Dwayne VanRheenen, ACU's provost (chief academic officer). "We want as many of our students as possible to have an international experience while they are at ACU, and this is a chance to have a brief one without leaving Abilene."

However, the Russian students - Vladislav Zlenko of Vladikavkaz and Alexei Zhuravlev of Moscow - may gain even more from the experience simply because their tour affords them more than one opportunity to debate. While in the United States, they will also visit University of Georgia, University of Kentucky, Baylor University, Northwestern University, University of Iowa, Emerson College, California State University-Chico and University of North Texas.

Hobbs said his students will also be challenged because they are used to a specialized, technical way of arguing in front of a trained critic.

"They will have to adapt to a public situation and make it interesting for an audience," he said. The series of speeches will also be followed by an audience question and answer period.

ACU's team chose the topic of homelessness from the two offered by the Russians because they believe it will have broader audience interest than the other - expanding NATO to include Russia.

ACU also was allowed to chose which side of the debate it wanted - the affirmative.

"We will argue that we have religious, political and philosophical obligations to support the homeless," Hobbs said. "In taking the negative side, the Russian students may try to argue that another group is more important to support or that it is not a societal but an individual obligation or some other approach. We'll just have to wait and see."

The debaters take an advocacy position, he said. The views they express are not necessarily their own opinions. Students are taught to debate both sides of every issue.

ACU students first debated Russian students in the International Discussion program in fall 1992. They have also debated Japanese teams twice.

"I'm looking forward to seeing how the Russians debate now," Hobbs said. "Back in 1992, their people did not have a long history of debate and arguing. Now they've had several years under democracy to work on it, and I want to see how their argumentation has evolved."

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Last update: November 14, 1997