William & Mary

Four professors prepare for annual Raft Debate

  • Raft Debate
    Raft Debate  The annual Raft Debate poster features caricatures of the professors participating in the debate: (left to right) Laurie Sanderson, Vassiliki Panoussi, Andrew Fisher, Larry Leemis and Pamela Eddy.  Artwork by Rachel Follis
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The Raft Debate, a much beloved William & Mary tradition, will be held at the Commonwealth Auditorium in the Sadler Center, on Sept. 22 at 6:30 p.m.

The 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. Join the excitement as the professors cajole, plead, pontificate, and resort shamelessly to props and costumes until the final, lone survivor is decided. 

This year’s survivors representing their disciplines and the fate of humanity are:

Humanities: Boyd Distinguished Associate Professor of Classical Studies Vassiliki Panoussi. Panoussi’s research focuses on Roman Literature as informed through the study of intertextuality, cultural anthropology, religion, and gender. Her book, “Greek Tragedy in Vergil’s Aeneid: Ritual, Empire, and Intertext,” was published in 2009 by Cambridge University Press. She is currently at work on another book project titled: “Brides, Mourners, Bacchae: Women’s Rituals in Roman Literature.” At W&M she has taught courses in Greek, Latin, and Classical Civilization at all levels. One of her favorite past-times is reading the Harry Potter books and helping students identify classical motifs therein.

Social sciences: Associate Professor of History Andrew Fisher. Fisher teaches graduate and undergraduate courses on the history of the modern United States, Native Americans, and the American West. He is also involved with the environmental science and policy program and the committee on sustainability. He is the author of “Shadow Tribe: The Making of Columbia River Indian Identity” and a dozen essays and articles on various topics in American Indian, Western, and environmental history. His articles have won numerous awards, and he was voted one of the professors most likely to have a tattoo (he doesn't) at Arizona State University.

Natural and computational sciences: Mathematics Professor Larry Leemis. Leemis teaches classes in operations research, probability, and statistics. His research is in the area of reliability, simulation, and computational probability. He has authored or co-authored five books, most recently “Computational Probability: Algorithms and Applications in the Mathematical Sciences” (2008) and “Probability” (2011), and has published articles in numerous scientific journals. Leemis has received research funding from several granting agencies and was a 2010 recipient of the Plumeri Award for Faculty Excellence.

The devil's advocate will be played by Associate Professor of Education Pamela Eddy.  Eddy teaches courses on policy, organization and governance, finance, and community colleges.  Most recently, she has authored “Community College Leadership: A Multidimensional Model for Leading Change” (2010) and “Partnerships and Collaborations in Higher Education” (2010). Her research focuses on leadership, organizational management (both in the U.S. and internationally), and faculty development. She was a 2009 Fulbright Scholar in Ireland and a 2011 recipient of the Plumeri Award for Faculty Excellence.

The judge will be played by Dean of Graduate Studies and Research Laurie Sanderson.

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. A reception will follow in the Tidewater A of the Sadler Center.

For more information, visit the webpage or contact Chasity Roberts at cyroberts@wm.edu.