Trinity and Yale go Head-to-Head in Student Economic Review Debate

Posted on: 13 March 2015

Teams from Trinity College Dublin and Yale University debated the motion “This house believes that the US should open the Mexican border” at the Student Economic Review debate in the Graduates’ Memorial Building last month. The debate was chaired by Gideon Rachman, chief foreign affairs commentator of the Financial Times. Trinity’s Hannah Beresford was awarded Best Speaker, and Trinity's William Dunne was, according to chair of the judging panel RTÉ; Morning Ireland’s Áine Lawlor, a close runner-up. However Yale were ultimately awarded the prize for best team on the night.

The full judging panel for the debate, hosted by the Philosophical Society, consisted of Áine Lawlor, Stephen Collins, political editor of the Irish Times, and graduates Hannah Cogan and Rebecca Keating, both past winners of the SER debate. The Trinity team, consisting of Niall Casey, William Dunne, and Hannah Beresford, argued on the proposition side during the debate. Casey argued that immigration has historically underpinned American success and that the current system has held back prosperity and caused massive suffering. Dunne claimed in his speech that he despaired on lecturing Americans on their own cherished values of freedom, and argued that the better wage competition caused by the migrant influx would keep firms in the US. In her speech, Beresford put it to the house that immigrants would bring new ideas and entrepreneurial spirit to America.

At the Student Economic Review (SER) Debate were, back row, SER Committee, front row sitting, debaters from Trinity College Dublin and Yale University

The Yale team, consisting of Adira Levine, Christopher Tyler, and Yoon Joe Sul argued the opposition side. Levine argued that the sudden wholesale opening up of the border to low-skilled migrants would lead to a disastrous rise in crime and a fall in working conditions. In his speech, Tyler argued that the proposition side were basing their position on a mistaken idea of American exceptionalism. Finally, Yoon argued that there is a difference between being nice and being good – so that if her mother decided to feed all the homeless men on her street rather than her she would be justifiably annoyed.

In his closing speech, Gideon Rachman told an amusing but salutary story about his deportation from the United States. He also pointed out that the opening up of internal borders within the European Union had led to a surge of anti-immigration parties. He also said that he felt uncomfortable hearing Europeans lecture Americans on their border problems when hundreds of migrants drown in the Mediterranean every year when trying to enter Europe.

The work of the SER, now in its 29th year, is presided over by Professor of Economics and President of the SER, John O'Hagan. Each year the SER organise two debates in conjunction with the college's Philosophical or Historical Society, played always to a packed GMB debating chamber. The first, run in the Michaelmas Term sees a Trinity team compete against either Oxford or Cambridge Universities, while the second, held in Hilary Term, alternates between Harvard and Yale Universities. The debates, along with the Student Economic Review, an undergraduate journal published annually by the students, are supported by four donors, all former Trinity graduates.

Additional information regarding the SER including details regarding sponsors, reflections from past SER Committee Members and copies of previous SER publications from over the last 27 years can be accessed on the SER website.