The Raft Debate

A William & Mary tradition!

The 2019 Raft Debate 

Thursday, March 14, 2019 at 6:30 p.m. in the Sadler Center's Chesapeake Rooms. The Raft Debate is free and open to the public. If you can't be there in person, watch the livestream!

Watch the LiveStream

Described as a "delicate balance of comedy and lecture", the annual Raft Debate features four W&M faculty members from diverse disciplines, stranded on a desolate island with only a one-person life raft for escape to civilization. Which faculty member should survive for the sake of humanity? Based on the volume of applause, the audience chooses the sole survivor as the professors cajole, plead, pontificate, and resort shamelessly to props and costumes.

2019 Raft Debate posterThe quirky event originated in the mid-1900s and was revived in 2002 by the Graduate Center, the A&S Office of Graduate Studies and Research, and the A&S Graduate Student Association. Faculty participants represent the Humanities, the Social Sciences, or the Natural and Computational Sciences. The Devil's Advocate, who argues sarcastically that none of the academic disciplines are worth saving, has on occasion emerged victorious.

The 2019 debaters representing their disciplines are: 

Humanities: Annie Blazer, Assistant Professor Religious Studies. Professor Blazer’s courses cover religion in America from the colonial to contemporary period. In particular, Professor Blazer's courses investigate the relationships between religions and American culture, paying attention to race, class, gender, and sexuality. Professor Blazer's first book, Playing for God: Evangelical Women and the Unintended Consequences of Sports Ministry (NYU Press), was released in July 2015. The book is an ethnographic exploration of the religious experiences of Christian athletes in the U.S. Professor Blazer’s current research project investigates the effects of gentrification and re-urbanization on religious communities and focuses on the East End of Richmond, Virginia. She has been the recipient of the Alumni Fellowship Award and serves as a Reveley Interdisciplinary Fellow.

Social Sciences: John Lopresti, Assistant Professor Economics and Public Policy.  Professor Lopresti is a an economist with a focus on issues in international trade. His work explores the connection between theory and empirics, with an emphasis on the policy and welfare implications of trade. Specifically, his research examines the effects of trade over the past quarter century on individuals, businesses, and communities and the ways in which these groups have adjusted to disruptions caused by globalization. His home is in the economics department, but he is am also a member of the International Relations program, and teach International Trade Policy in the Masters of Public Policy Program. He was the 2016-2017 Tang Fellow in Economics.

Natural and Computational Sciences: M. Drew LaMar, Associate Professor Biology.  Professor LaMar is a mathematical and computational biologist specializing in mathematical modeling, software development, and faculty development. He enjoys co-advising students working on biological problems with a highly interdisciplinary focus, and working with biology faculty to incorporate quantitative and computational techniques into their teaching. Student research projects include using algebraic topology to understand the dynamics of neuronal networks, and using mathematical models to predict the effect of demography and plant traits for milkweed on population growth. LaMar is Co-Director for the Mathematical Biology track of the Computational and Applied Mathematics and Statistics program, Co-Principal Investigator and Director of Cyberinfrastructure for the National Science Foundation funded QUBES virtual network of mathematics and biology educators (https://qubeshub.org), and is an Edward Coco Faculty Fellow.

Devil's Advocate:  Michael Halleran,  Provost and Professor Classical Studies.  Halleran has served as the university’s provost since 2009.   As the university’s chief academic officer, Halleran is responsible for all academic and research programs, academic budgets, institutional planning, space allocation and faculty development.  He played a leading role in implementing the William & Mary Promise, which increased access, affordability and predictability for in-state students, while providing more resources for university priorities.  He established the Creative Adaptation Fund for curricular innovation, has expanded e-learning across the campus and, with the support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, created the W. Taylor Reveley, III Interdisciplinary Fellows Program.  Halleran helped establish a Confucius Institute in partnership with Beijing Normal University, and has overseen a major rise in international students on campus and the success of the joint-degree program with St Andrews University, Scotland.  The Provost’s Office Faculty Hiring and Diversity Initiative has increased the diversity of the faculty.  Halleran attended Kenyon College (A.B., 1975) and received his graduate degrees in Classical Philology from Harvard University (A.M., 1978; Ph.D., 1981).  His teaching and scholarship have focused on ancient Greek language, literature, intellectual history and mythology, and his publications (articles, books and translations) are primarily on Greek tragedy, with a particular emphasis on the protean playwright Euripides.  Although he is playing the Devil’s Advocate at the 2019 Raft Debate, he has no truck with Satan.  

Judge: Virginia Torczon, Dean of Graduate Studies and Research