Pictured above: From left to right Professors’ Barry Ward, Chris Goering, Katie Chapman, Lissette Lopez Szwydky-Davis, Raja Kali and Dennis Brewer. | Photo by Hannah Hamilton

By Hannah Hamilton
Resident Assistant
Hotz Honors Hall

Five University of Arkansas professors used their academic prowess to argue why they should occupy the last spot in a life boat needed to save humanity.

That’s the premise of the Life Raft Debate which happened Sept. 18 at the Law School.

The professors pled their cases in front of a student audience who voted on which professor made the most convincing argument. 

  • Dennis Brewer, professor and vice-chair of mathematical sciences
  • Kate Chapman, clinical assistant professor of psychological sciences
  • Christian Goering, professor of English education
  • Raja Kali, professor and departmental chair of economics
  • Barry Ward, associate professor of philosophy

The first professor to argue for his survival was Raja Kali, professor and departmental chair of economics. He started off strong by claiming that, “economics is the science of distributing resources for the betterment of society. When you ignore economics, society will diminish. Economics is the operating system of society.”

The next potential survivor was Barry Ward, associate professor of philosophy. He said that philosophy is crucial to critical thinking and that’s key for a successful society.

Another professor arguing for her survival was Katie Chapman, clinical assistant professor of psychological sciences.

“The only thing certain about the new world we will be building is that there will be humans, and psychology is the study of people. The new society will need someone who knows human behavior and how to promote the good behaviors we want,” she said.

The next professor and potential survivor was Dennis Brewer, professor and vice-chair of mathematical sciences.

“If, by chance, some of you want to become better mathematicians, you should let me on this raft and I will teach you. However, if some of you don’t want to become better at math, let me on, and I’ll do your math for you,” he told the crowd.

The final professor arguing for his survival was Chris Goering, professor of English education

“Education allows us a lot of skills if we are going to be building a new society. All the answers are inside of us, education will be the thing that allows us to move forward together,” he said.

After the professors introduced themselves, they were asked what skills they would bring to the new society, and how these skills would help the society survive.

The audience then asked the professors specific questions that would help the audience decide who to let on the raft. A vote happened after that question-and-answer session.

Students Vote

Braydee Chu of Hotz Honors Hall said he enjoyed the spirited debate. Chu intends to major in business and is from Kansas City.

“I enjoyed learning new things about each of the disciplines. For example, Dr. Chapman’s arguments helped me understand the scope and depth of psychology by emphasizing its use of empiricism and importance in public policy.

“It was also very interesting to hear Dr. Goering’s point about using education to bring people together and work effectively,” he said.

After a few spicy arguments from the judges, and careful consideration from the audience, the decision was made to let Chapman on the life raft.

“The end of the world makes us really think about what we value in life besides just survival,” Chapman said.