Undergraduate Education

SMU Students Debate Public Health Measures And Civil Liberties

Debate teams, judges
Two teams answer questions posed by the judges after their proposals on public health measures and limits on civil liberties.

Undergraduate students in a public health course at SMU propose diverse approaches and perspectives while discussing public health measures taken during the COVID-19 pandemic and its relation to limiting civil liberties.

Creating Impact in Global & Public Health, a course created and taught by Dr. Eric G. Bing, is underway for the Spring semester.  Students in the course focus on understanding and analyzing public health data, including the dynamics of pandemics, and the different ways in which the government takes action to mitigate the impact. With the SARS-CoV-2 virus causing countless deaths across the globe, public health measures such as quarantines and lockdowns followed in attempts to protect public health, which also led to protests and rallies by those who believe the health measures infringe one’s civil liberties. Using what they have learned from the course, students now put their knowledge to use through a formal debate to answer the question: “In the event of a public health emergency, is it justified to limit civil liberties in order to protect public health?”

Judges and students
Judges take notes as students present their arguments during the debate over public health measures and limits on civil liberty.

Students in the course researched and proposed creative approaches to the debate topic from a variety of perspectives. While acknowledging the importance of protecting public health, students analyzed the effectiveness of restrictive measures such as lockdowns and quarantines and other approaches taken by countries outside of the United States. Students also prepared rebuttals for their opposing teams where they appealed their points while weighing the impact of topics discussed. The judges ultimately favored the team who thoroughly outlined and demonstrated their points with research to support them. Out of the three debates between six teams of students, two teams who argued “justifiable to limit civil liberties,” while one team who argued “unjustifiable to limit civil liberties” took victory.

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