Political Science Professor Urges Reversal of Traditional Debate Format

October 4, 2012
cartoon of elephant and donkey boxing

In a series called Room for Debate, the New York Times invites knowledgeable outside contributors to discuss news events and other timely issues. Wellesley's Marion Just, the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Political Science, was called upon to contribute to the most recent discussion, A Better Approach to Presidential Debates.

"Televised presidential debates give voters the opportunity to see the leading candidates together, sometimes addressing the same issue. Voters have a chance to weigh the pros and cons of each candidate. Debates are supposed to be like deciding between two ink-jet printers on a good shopping site. You compare the 'the specs' of the products side-by-side," Just wrote.

Proposing that the traditional debate format be reversed, Just proposed, "Instead of two or three minutes to state their positions, give the candidates 30 seconds and then extend the time in which they can argue with their opponents."

Just's research and teaching focuses on elections, politics, and the media. Her current research projects concern political campaigns, psychological aspects of voting, patterns of news, politics on the Internet, and media coverage of women leaders.

Her piece on same-day voter registration appeared in the New York Times last fall.

Want to hear more election issue commentary from Wellesley professors? Listen to a panel discussion, "Domestic Policy Issues in the U.S. Election" with Tom Burke (political science), Courtney Coile (economics), and Dan Sichel (economics).

Another panel, "Foreign Policy Issues in the U.S. Election," will be held in Pendleton Atrium on October 18, at 12:30 p.m., featuring political science professors Nadya Hajj, Bill Joseph, and Paul MacDonald.