Emory Report
January 31, 2005
Volume 60, Number 17


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January 31 , 2005
Agreement a major part of 'Brothers' Keeper' event

BY Eric rangus

Emory should protect green space because of its aesthetic, public health and economic value. Marriage may not necessarily be the best course of action for same-sex couples, though legal recognition of their unions certainly is. Society should guarantee basic health care, but what qualifies as "basic" is not always agreed upon. The United States should not intervene militarily in the Sudan, but many non-military options are available.

Those were the conclusions reached by the 17 panelists who took the stage at the Charter Celebration's Emory in Perspective Debate, "Am I My Brothers' and Sisters' Keeper? Rights and Responsibilities of Local and Global Citizens," Tuesday, Jan. 25, in Cox Hall.

A wide-ranging and fast-moving event, the debate--one of the academic highlights of the weeklong Charter Celebration--brought together panels of faculty and students to address four controversial subjects: gay marriage, health care, the Sudan conflict and the environment.

With only four minutes apiece to speak and limited opportunities for questions, "Am I My Brothers' and Sisters' Keeper" was more of a discussion than a debate. And only the Sudan speakers showed distinct differences in opinion during the two-hour event. All five speakers (the other three panels had four speakers each) agreed that the United States should intervene in Sudan, a country whose unrest was called a "genocide" by former Secretary of State Colin Powell, but the consensus stopped short of advocating military involvement.

"This is a perfect opportunity for international organizations to show what they are made of," said college junior J.B. Tarter, a triple major in political science, economics and history and member of the debate planning committee. "Diplomacy is a good way to intervene. The United States should use soft power. Now is the time for the rest of the world to step up."

"We must intervene and stop this," said Neil Shulman, associate professor of medicine and the panel's strongest advocate for intervention. He chairs the campus coalition Sudan: Take Action.

Sudan aside, the debates were more along the line of the gay marriage section, which began the afternoon. Timothy Jackson, associate professor of Christian ethics in the Candler School of Theology, presented arguments against gay marriage but admitted they were "not persuasive even to me."

That panel, which also included the School of Law's Michael Perry, Saralyn Chesnut of the Office of LGBT Life and undergraduate Devin Murphy, was unanimous in the opinion that same-sex unions should receive the legal recognition and benefits open to married people, but Murphy in particular was uncomfortable with the term "marriage."

"I don't advocate it for now," said the junior interdisciplinary studies major and member of the LGBT commission and PCORE. "The United States is not ready to have a conversation about the differences in how we relate to one another."

The health care discussion centered not on whether care should be guaranteed by society but on how much. Emergency care is guaranteed, said Adam Atherly, assistant professor in health policy and management in the Rollins School of Public Health, but "we don't guarantee access to health insurance."

The green-friendly environmental portion of the debate, which wrapped up the afternoon, included pro-environment presentations highlighting the environment's integral role in pollution control and culture, among other things, from environmental studies' John Wegner and anthropology's Peggy Barlett--two longtime advocates for a sustainable campus; a presentation by Emory's Chapter of the Student Environmental Action Coalition (ECOSEAC) president Koshlan Mayer-Blackwell; and pragmatic comments from Paul Rubin, Samuel Dobbs Professor of Economics and Law.

"Subdivisions with trees will be worth more to buyers," Rubin said. "So it pays for developers to leave them where they are."

The debate, which was moderated by political science's Rick Doner and journalism's Catherine Manegold, was followed by the premiere of the play Shrapnel , written by 2004 Emory College graduate Lauren Gunderson.