Photographer:Fotograaf: Loraine Bodewes
MAASTRICHT. Is it a good idea to increase the funding for so-called STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and dramatically decrease the funding for non-STEM fields, such as Arts and Social Sciences, Economics and Politics? That was the question at the Maastricht University Debating Championship, last Monday evening in the Auditorium on the Minderbroedersberg.
After workshops at all faculties, the four best teams battle tonight in the grand finale. The topic of the debate is unknown to them until fifteen minutes before kick-off. They will be judged by a panel of experienced debaters from the Maastricht debating society Rhetorica, which organised the event in collaboration with Studium Generale.
While the debaters leave the room to prepare, the chair explains to the audience the rules of debating in British parliamentary style. Two teams represent ‘the government’; they are in favour of the proposition. The other two are the opposition. Each debater has a couple of minutes to present their arguments. The other participants may interrupt, but the speaker can choose whether to dismiss them or hear them out.
Véronique Brokke (Law) starts with a warning: we’re losing the competition with Japan. While our economy is in big trouble, theirs is thriving, thanks to their head start in technology. That’s just fine, says Anna Vasylyeva (University College Maastricht) of the opposing team. “Every country should play its own strengths, let Japan’s be technology.” She’s worried about the level of education. “Education should prepare you for being a critical, analytical and well-rounded citizen. We fear that this will get lost if everyone is focusing on technology and are not taught ethics, for example.” Reducing the funding doesn’t mean deleting it, says Dina Grego (Law). “There’ll still be people who study ethics; just not so many that they’ll be hungry every day.”
STEM fields actually need more money than other fields, says Emma Hartholt (Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences). “A lab costs a lot more than looking at paintings.” Also, part of the investments could be used to attract women to a currently male-dominated field, she suggests. Where’s the point in that, if they don’t enjoy their studies, asks Ilinca Radu (School of Business and Economics). “Yes, you can force people to study Engineering and work in that area. But they won’t be productive or efficient if they hate their jobs. That’s not beneficial to society at all.”
After the last participants, whose role it is to summarize and conclude the debate, have finished, the jury goes into deliberation. When David Rickenback, chairman of the jury, pronounces SBE as the winner, a loud “woo hoo!” breaks through the silence. It’s SBE student Ilinca Radu, who can’t suppress her happiness that she and her teammate Jānis Dišlers are the new Debating Champions.