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DeSales Attracts Overwhelming Crowd for New Norene and Tony Salvaggio Debate Series

by W. Daniel Parfitt '20 Jan 24, 2020

The DeSales University Center bustled with an overwhelming crowd of nearly 300 students, staff, and faculty for The Norene and Tony Salvaggio Debate Series. 

Tony Salvaggio conceptualized and funded the new series in hopes of encouraging open dialogue and debate between opposing viewpoints on modern social, economic, and political topics. 

“Dialogue is one of the pillars of Catholic higher education. The key element here is to train our students in the philosophical skill of argumentation.” 

 Father Kevin Nadolski, OSFS, vice president for mission

Father James Greenfield, OSFS ’84, University president, also mentioned his excitement for the event and its benefit for students, saying, “I believe this type of dialogue empowers students to think outside the box. These issues, you often can't discuss them in today's atmosphere without getting into some heated argument with someone who has a differing viewpoint.” 

The debate was composed of two teams of three conversing over which system, socialism or capitalism, can better address the needs of the poor. Arguing for capitalism were Bradley Barnhorst, associate professor of business; Dr. Joshua Schulz, assistant professor of philosophy; and Wesley Carroll, a junior accounting and finance double major. 

Dr. Brennan Pursell, professor and director of the Data Analytics-Applied AI program; Dr. Lisa Wilde, assistant professor of English; and Shianna Klingle, a senior accounting and finance double major, made the case for socialism. Interestingly enough, Barnhorst and Wilde—who were on opposing teams—are husband and wife. 

“Having my husband on the opposing team was business as usual because we debate all the time,” Wilde said. “The best part was having engaged in intelligent discussions with a colleague like Dr. Pursell and also with a student. So, I think it was just the dialogue—that's what intellectual experience should be about, that’s what University community should be about. It was a really good bonding experience.” 

Both teams presented strong points by appropriately addressing the historical significance of their philosophies as well as the weaknesses that can often accompany the economical structure of their opponents.  

Barnhorst opened his time by acknowledging the large crowd. “First, I’d like to start locally here. Those of you standing are experiencing when a recourse is free and centrally planned...we don’t have enough seats.”

On the other side, Pursell pointed to the church and how in the past it had been responsible for health care, social welfare, and education. Without the church’s active participation, he argued, the government is left to take up that role. 

Once each team presented closing statements and the votes were cast among the judges, team capitalism took the winning prize of $3,000 and team socialism walked away with a $1,000 prize. 

Check presentation at Salvaggio debate

After his team won the debate, Carroll expressed his enjoyment of the debate and his gratitude for having been a part of it. “It was a great debate,” he said, “I was excited to be asked to participate. I’d also like to thank the opposing team for giving us a challenge.” 

Tony Salvaggio has also donated one million dollars to the University to establish The Norene and Tony Salvaggio Honors Scholarship, which is expected to begin in the fall of 2021.