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Postponed: W&M's Raft Debate

  • Cartoon characters stand on a beach
    Raft Debate:  This year's debate will include: David Grandis, representing the humanities; Jennifer Stevens, representing social sciences; Josh Erlich, representing the sciences; Josh Gert as the devil's advocate; and Virginia Torczon as the judge.  Courtesy image
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Update: As part of W&M's response to COVID-19, all events and gatherings in university facilities as well as university-sponsored events on and off campus are suspended through at least June 12. The Raft Debate is expected to be postponed until the fall. Read more.


William & Mary's 2020 Raft Debate will be held in the Sadler Center's Commonwealth Auditorium March 19 at 6:30 p.m.

During the much-beloved William & Mary tradition, three survivors of an imaginary shipwreck — a scientist, a social scientist and a humanist — achieve a delicate balance between comedy and lecture as they debate the value of their respective discipline for the rest of humanity.

Only one of these professors can return to civilization in the life raft. A fourth faculty member, a devil’s advocate, joins the survivors and argues sarcastically that none of the academic disciplines are worth saving. The winner of the debate is chosen by a judge based on audience reaction. 

This year’s survivors representing their disciplines are:

  • Humanities: David Grandis, Assistant Professor of Music and Director of Orchestras.
  • Social Sciences: Jennifer Stevens, Associate Professor of Psychological Sciences.
  • Sciences: Josh Erlich, Professor of Physics
  • Devil's Advocate: Josh Gert, Leslie and Naomi Legum Distinguished Professor and Chair of Philosophy.

The judge will be played by Virginia Torczon, dean of graduate studies and research for Arts & Sciences.

The Raft Debate, sponsored by the Office of Graduate Studies and Research, the Graduate Center and the A&S Graduate Student Association, is free and open to the public.  For more information, visit the webpage or contact Chasity Roberts at