Vanderbilt University to host exhibition debate on TikTok bans at universities Feb. 3

Vanderbilt University invites the Nashville and campus communities to an exhibition designed to introduce the craft of debate to new audiences while exploring a timely topic.

The University of Mississippi will team up with Vanderbilt to host a debate exhibition at 6 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 3, in Wilson Hall, Room 103. The event is free and open to the public and is part of an effort to increase civic engagement on Vanderbilt’s campus.

The two-person teams at the exhibition will debate the proposition “Resolved: Universities should ban the use of TikTok on university-provided devices and internet networks.”

This public exhibition is one part of a larger national debate tournament Vanderbilt is hosting Feb. 3–5. More than 100 students from 30 universities will participate in the campus tournament.

Vanderbilt has built an international reputation as a debate powerhouse, and its annual tournament has drawn dozens of schools to the competition over the years.

This year’s topic is timely, as higher education institutions, including the University of Texas at Austin and Auburn University, have implemented bans on TikTok amid protests from students. Incorporating discussion of free expression at a time when social media policies at colleges continue to dominate headlines makes this year’s theme particularly relevant, said John Koch, director of debate and a senior lecturer in Vanderbilt’s Communication Studies program, which houses the debate program.

The debate experience helps one to develop and improve communication and critical thinking skills, according to ML Sandoz, director of forensics and principal senior lecturer in Communication Studies at Vanderbilt.

Students who participate gain a better understanding of general theories and principles of argumentation as well as current world issues. Students also develop better research, critical thinking and communication skills, Sandoz noted.

In addition, because debate is essential to our society’s democratic process and important in successful decision making, the debate experience empowers students to participate more productively in shaping their own personal worlds and society as a whole, she added.

In today’s polarized world many students who participate in debate learn how to disagree with a viewpoint without delving into personal attacks, Sandoz said.

“For students in general, debate opens up the world of experiences. For me as a student, it opened my eyes to things I never would have explored if I hadn’t had debate,” Sandoz said. “Debate topics can be very broad, requiring much research and good research skills. Debate helps one develop critical thinking skills and explore so many different ideas and topics.”

This year’s event will allow some Vanderbilt students a chance for further exploration of debate. A pre-debate workshop will introduce students to the basics of what they will see at the exhibition on Feb. 3, and students will participate in a follow-up dinner to discuss the event.