Should a women’s college be allowed to join Hobart College?
As this year’s William Smith Centennial events celebrate the spectrum of William Smith success and accomplishment over the last 100 years, it is important to pay homage to the College’s beginning. A century later, it is hard to conceive the adversity women and pioneering men, such as college founder William Smith, encountered as they worked to establish institutions of higher learning for women. As part of Centennial weekend, the Colleges re-enacted that poignant effort by debating the arguments of the time. Set in 1908, the Great Debate discussed and re-lived the conversation of whether or not there should be a new women’s college in Geneva.
“Hopefully, by hearing debaters appeal to a hypothetical audience from 100 years ago, the actual audience will realize how far we’ve come,” says Eric Barnes, assistant professor of philosophy and advisor to the HWS Debate Team.
With Barnes moderating, two teams of HWS seniors — Alyssa Dechow and Thomas Frohlich versus David Hernandez and Hannah Zale — appealed to early 20th century values and beliefs in their debate, which included an opportunity for audience participation. Celebrating the Centennial of William Smith, the debate made a point to remind the audience and campus community that the decision to start a women’s college was not simple or obvious at the time.
“Clearly, there’s been tremendous progress for women over the past 100 years,” says Barnes. “Institutions supporting women’s higher education, like William Smith College, have played an important role in bringing this about.”
The debate was held at 8 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 7 in St. John’s Chapel.