Clovis Community students debate tenure at the campus Oxford Debate

By Lauren Mueller, Reporter

For 14 years, Cynthia Elliott has hosted an Oxford-style debate in her class at Clovis Community College, with her students as the debaters. This year was the first time Elliott hosted the debate with the junior college as fully independent.

This year’s annual debate was on the topic of teacher tenure. On the pro side of the debate, students in Elliott’s English 3 Honors course argued that tenure served as protection for teachers against wrongful firings.

The con side, on the other hand, asserted that tenure was a broken system that kept negligent teachers safe when they would otherwise be replaced with a teacher who was better able to do the job.

The topic of this year’s debate was chosen by last year’s class. Elliott does her best to keep the topics broad and applicable to the general public so anyone who attends can understand what is being argued.

Two polls were taken during the debate. The primary poll, before the debate began, showed the con side holding an advantage. Thirty-six percent of the audience believed that tenure was a problem, 24 percent thought tenure was protection, and 40 percent of the audience was undecided.

By the final poll, the pro side had turned the tables to win with 67 percent of the audience believing tenure was protection and only 38 percent still thinking it was a problem. There were no audience members at the end who were undecided.

The 32 students in the class that participated in the debate were dominantly majoring in the math, science and engineering fields. Only 11 of the students had prior public speaking experience.

The students had varying reactions to the debate and their participation. Tessa Warkentio said there “was not as much anxiety” as she expected, but Nick Bjornsen wished there had been “more time to prepare.” Two other students, Brandon Burt and Alexis Macedo, thought the experience was great all-around.

Elliott is proud of her students’ success in the debate and plans to continue hosting the debate. She has already chosen next year’s topic. The debates are always free and open to the public, and information on when and where next year’s will be hosted will be available as the event gets closer.

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