New student journal focuses on the art of debate
This spring a group of students collaborated to create and publish Rebuttal, the first debate-style publication at St. Olaf College.
Students submitted arguments and counterarguments on a range of issues, including abortion laws, microtransactions, consuming the art of immoral artists, and voter ID laws. True to the publication’s debate-style format, authors were encouraged to argue viewpoints as an exercise in free thought, even if they do not identify with their arguments.
Writers Harrison Clark ’21 and Iain Carlos ’20, for example, took opposing sides in the arguments for and against consuming the art of immoral artists. In Clark’s qualified pro argument, he contends that the canon of music and literature are somewhat fixed by historical influences but that the future of art is up to the moral preferences of modern-day consumers. Carlos’ counterargument, using R. Kelly as an example, insists that we should not consume immoral art when the artist can still benefit through financial gains, as we would be supporting actions we do not stand for.
The inaugural issue of Rebuttal, which includes 18 researched and cited stories and spans 81 pages, debuted in both print and electronic editions this May. Subsequent issues will be released each spring.
The 2018-19 student staff, led by Editor-in-Chief Nick Gonnerman ’19, was made up of 14 editors and two staff writers from all class years. The team split their time between reviewing article submissions, writing their own content, and preparing each issue for print and distribution.
The Rebuttal website provides a description of the journal’s method and process:
“We offer students an opportunity to publish original work, read the work of peers, and challenge their beliefs. Writers submit articles that argue for or against a specific question. The question can relate to any topic. Writers can invent their own questions, or answer our prompts. Writers can base their papers on class assignments or from their own, go-getting work. They can submit papers as a point/counterpoint set or as a single paper for the Board of Editors to refute.”
Gonnerman says he has always liked talking to people he disagrees with — and that served as his inspiration for starting a debate-style student journal.
“Hearing their viewpoints shows me ways in which my own thinking is lacking or needs adjustment,” he says. “And beyond that, hearing a point of view that is so different from my own is exciting. It opens up my mind to new experiences and relationships.”
Nick Gonnerman ’19Hearing a point of view that is so different from my own is exciting. It opens up my mind to new experiences and relationships.
Gonnerman believes these conversations will have a profound impact on the St. Olaf community. “It’s a way of showing students that good, thoughtful people can disagree on anything, and that our disagreeing doesn’t mean that we never talk to or try to be understanding towards one another. I see Rebuttal as a forum where the St. Olaf community can show its most vibrant and diverse self — and also show that Oles are close enough to one another to disagree respectfully,” says Gonnerman.
Rebuttal remains a free publication by accepting grants from organizations that support its mission of debate-centered journalism. Such financial supporters include the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and the Institute for Freedom and Community. Established at St. Olaf in 2014, the Institute encourages free inquiry and meaningful debate of important political and social issues among students, faculty, and the general public. Rebuttal takes pride in performing every step of the publishing process independently, with no influences from sponsoring groups.
Not only does Rebuttal provide a unique platform for students to debate important issues, it is also one of the few journals on campus that provides students from all academic disciplines with the opportunity to participate in peer-reviewed writing. Writing for Rebuttal allows students to flex their research muscles, hone their writing skills, and enhance any resume or graduate school application.
Although Gonnerman has now graduated, Rebuttal will continue to grow and evolve under new editors in chief Harrison Clark ’21 and Alyssa Moore ’21.
Moore says she was impressed by both the quality of the writing submitted and the positive reception from the St. Olaf community this spring. As editor in chief, she hopes to continue the journal’s mission.
“I was inspired to join Rebuttal because it serves students as a place for a diverse array of scholarly, persuasive arguments,” she says. “It is a platform for writers of all backgrounds to defend their own beliefs, while also challenging their positions on relevant issues.”
Alyssa Moore ’21I was inspired to join Rebuttal because it serves students as a place for a diverse array of scholarly, persuasive arguments … it is a platform for writers of all backgrounds to defend their own beliefs, while also challenging their positions on relevant issues.
The spring issue of Rebuttal can be found on the publication’s digital archive. The next issue of Rebuttal is scheduled to be published in the spring of the 2019-20 academic year. Details about the publication and future information about submission deadlines can be found on the official Rebuttal website.