Political Correctness: Life or Death?: Professors debate on validity of Political Correctness in our society

Photos Courtesy of Jim Vergara
Photos Courtesy of Jim Vergara


Thursday, Apr. 17 Delta College Speech and Debate hosted a professor debate in the West Forum. The topic was phrased in the form of a statement, and there were two panelists defending the affirmative (agreeing with the statement) and two panelists on the negative (disagreeing with the statement).

The statement was clear and simple: “Political correctness must die.” It was written on the dry-erase board behind them.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “politically correct” (PC) as “conforming to a belief that language and practices which could offend political sensibilities (as in matters of sex or race) should be eliminated.”

On the affirmative side was professor William Ferraiolo and professor Jeff Toney. On the negative was professor and Forensics coach Kathleen Bruce and professor Harry Mersmann.

Toney sat on the opposite side from his personal views.

“I have been involved in speech and debate for a long time, playing devil’s advocate comes with the territory,” said Toney.

Each side received seven minutes for their opening statements.

The affirmative spoke first, Ferraiolo introduced his “Top ten reasons PC is bad.” Some of which included: “PC is disingenuous,” “PC presumes that my thoughts are yours to control,” and “PC is an expression of weakness.”

Mersmann provided the negative opening statement which included reasons such as: “PC is about making people feel welcome,” “It helps make people aware of social and political inequalities,” and “Words are powerful and people carry words that were said to them around for the rest of their lives.”

After opening statements, there was a five-minute crossfire segment where the panelists were allowed to ask the other side questions.

One of the questions brought up during the debate was from Ferraiolo:  “Who gets to decide which labels are the PC ones to use?” Bruce answered: “Not the Patriarchy.”

The crossfire section was followed by a 10-minute audience question and answer segment.

Students brought up multiple questions regarding their right to free speech, which is guaranteed by the First Amendment.

After the Q&A, both sides were given time for closing statements.  Bruce summed up her position by stating briefly that she is sorry that “you have to change your ways of life so as to not offend others,”

Toney also delivered a lively conclusion stating that PC is a tool used by and brought to the United States from fascist regimes.

In the end, the audience voted by a show of hands, and most people favored Bruce and Mersmann’s position.

Ferraiolo was disappointed by the vote, “I wish we could have convinced the audience of our side, but overall it went well,”