Dr. Laura Bloom celebrates her win. Photo by Kat bell
Dr. Laura Bloom, professor of Family and Consumer Sciences, won the 23rd annual Life Raft Debate and secured her spot on the Life Raft and the coveted oar.
On Oct. 10 in Palmer Auditorium the survivors of a fictional catastrophic event gathered to decide which one of the professors vying for a spot on the coveted Life Raft would get one.
The event, in its 22nd year, has professors defend their discipline for a chance to be “saved,” or in the case of the devil’s advocate, argue for no one to be saved.
Dr. Scott Varagona served as the night’s emcee, opening the debate with a short message acknowledging those who worked to organize and stream the event, and gave special recognition to Drs. Andrea Eckelman and Aimee Mellon, as well as Cheryl and Michael Patton.
Varagona, who has participated in the event for the last seven years, almost a third of the debate’s lifespan, set the scene by explaining the premise and providing the rules.
Dr. Alex Beringer, associate professor of English, and last year’s winner, was the first to give his argument for being saved.
Beringer started with a reprise of his arguments from the previous Life Raft Debate and discussed how humanity may be its biggest enemy and showed a slide from his previous winning performance.
“All good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of feelings,” said Beringer, who based much of his argument on the power of literature and poetry to bridge boundaries and provided that literature gives us a heightened sense of the world around us.
“Figurative language connects to a heightened form of figurative experience,” finished Beringer.
He was followed by Brook Pruitt from the Mass Communication program who argued that he should be saved for his ability to entertain the audience. Relying, not on rhetorical devices, but instead presenting jokes in his defense.
The would-be comedian, Pruitt, discussed his name, his hometown in Beebe, Arkansas, including a joke about meth labs and the reason for which he decided to become a professor instead of a gynecologist. Pruitt finished by discussing his marriage.
Pruitt’s jokes drew mixed laughter from the audience, while some fell completely flat.
Drawing on his background as a marketing professor, Dean Stephen Craft, broke his argument down into a simple four-letter word: “love.”
Then, in stark criticism of dating apps and modern hookup culture, Craft structured his argument around how business, especially the business of dating apps, is a major part of how students find love in their lives.
“If you can’t post about it on Instagram is it really real?” Craft said, he then finished his opening argument by recalling his initial statement, “I urge you to include business for your own sake, and for love.”
After the initial arguments, participants were given 5 minutes for rebuttal.
Beringer stated that English is not about tearing their competitors’ arguments down, while proceeding to attempt to poke holes in his opponents’ arguments. He then noted that he did not see the virtues in marketing, in regard to Craft, or how pushups, meth labs, gynecology would have anything to do with the apocalypse, in regard to Pruitt.
Pruitt responded with a magic trick that attempted to win the audience over through spectacle.
Then, Dr. Steve Parker, another former winner of the Life Raft Debate, came out on stage as the devil’s advocate.
“Bless their hearts they tried,” said Parker as part of the opening salvo of his argument against saving the other participants. Then said that he would be putting away childish things and discussing the real problem with saving anyone.
“These are all good people, I respect them as colleagues, as human beings and as friends. I would take brook home to meet my mother, or a great aunt,” the professor of sociology stated, going on to indicate that he “would love to smoke opium and dream about big birds on boats,” in reference to Beringer.
Of Pruitt, Parker stated that he felt as if the Mass Communication professor sounded like he was attempting to sell him a vacuum.
“We don’t need, we don’t need, we don’t need Mass Communication Professors,” noted Parker, in reference to an earlier statement by Pruitt which indicated that no one is interested in reading books.
However, Parker began to dig deeper when he discussed Blooms arguments for FCS. Stating that he did not wish to be seen only as a consumer.
“I am more than that,” with Parker passionately arguing that each professor on the stage was more than the few points that they boiled themselves down to for the debate.
The night’s winner, Dr. Laura Bloom, professor of family and consumer sciences at UM, argued that
“I’m here to save your lives,” stated Bloom, using the game of life as a prop to prove her point.
Then, leveraging her position as the director of the UM child study center, Bloom argued that she would help transition the passengers of the life raft to their new life through education. Giving a more substantive approach to her plans to save the audience.
Bloom noted that her discipline is about how we live our lives. Insisting that the world we might live in, and that rebuilding after an apocalyptic event would require knowing about the basics about how humans have to live.
After the debate was over, but before the winner was announced, Varagona returned to the stage with an envelope and to congratulate Parker for his years of dedication to the Life Raft Debate itself.
Waid Jones was the editor-in-chief of The Alabamian during the 2019–2020 academic year. In 2018, while managing editor of The Alabamian, he received the Veterans of Influence Rising Star Award from the Birmingham Business Journal. Prior to coming to UM he was in the U.S. Marine Corps for two and a half years. Jones graduated with a degree in political science from UM in 2020. He is currently the news editor for the Jackson County Sentinel in Scottsboro, Alabama.