When Professor Herbert Simons created the Temple Issues Forum in 1998, he had a vision: the reawakening of the minds of faculty and students through lively debate.
“When I founded the Temple Issues Forum, I wanted [Temple] University to return to its original ideals of discussion and exploration,” Simons said.
Four and half years later, his hard work and guidance are paying off.
Simons is the former Chair of TIF and is currently the faculty advisor.
The organization is comprised of two separate student arms: the Public Debate and Discussion Club, and the Temple Debate Team.
Sandrine Dupiton is the president of TIF and oversees the activities of both organizations.
She said that PDD is a more visible of the two organizations, while TDT allows participants to compete against other schools.
“The TDT has competed in both intra-collegiate and inter-collegiate parliamentary debates over the past few years,” Dupiton said.
“Some of the schools we’ve faced were very challenging, like the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia. We’ve done very well against them.”
The inter-collegiate appeal didn’t stop there.
Other schools such as the University of Colorado, the University of Illinois-Chicago and the University of Utah are considering programs inspired by and based on TIF.
PDD was formed in the spring of 1999 to give interested students the opportunity to host informative discussions and forums on campus.
Guest panelists of differing viewpoints are invited participate in a discussion of a current issue, with a student or faculty moderator overseeing and coaching the discussion.
PDD is the smaller of the two groups, with about 10 members, but it dabbles in everything and tends to receive more student involvement and publicity.
They recently held an event in Shusterman Hall debating the complexities and aftermath of an invasion of Iraq.
PDD set up public discussions immediately after Sept. 11 to give the students a forum in which to talk about the events.
They are also responsible for “hearings” and debates about grade inflation and the University’s core requirement for race studies.
Many students involved with these organizations have been honors students, but this is not an honors-only organization.
The groups are made up of political science, journalism and communications majors.
Political science major Sam Simon is a chairperson of PDD.
He said undergraduates in particular could benefit from attending PDD events.
“We like to have discussions about important issues,” said Simon, “and the events also present many of the issues that aren’t brought up in classrooms.”
TIF has also collaborated with local television and radio station WHYY.
In October of 2000, they held a televised debate over the issue of a moratorium on the death penalty.
Special guests on the program included state Attorney General Mike Fisher, Emmy award-winning broadcaster Ray Brown and civil rights attorney David Rudovsky.
The broadcast reached over 20,000 viewers in the area, and is considered one of the TIF’s most successful events.
Simmons, credited with starting it all, is proud of the time and effort he put into the genesis of the TIF.
“I’m glad that discussion and debate are coming back to the campus,” he said.
“I want this to be my legacy at Temple. I believe that ideas matter more than jobs do, and it is important that we teach students how to think critically about issues as well, and not just tailor their education to push them right into a specific job.”
For more information about either of the TIF clubs, visit https://www.temple.edu/tif.
Eric Raible can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org