February 19, 2013
SMU and Wiley College will debate the controversial immigration issue on Wednesday, Feb. 20, in an unusual meeting that has its originals in 1935.
Free and open to the public, Wednesday’s debate will be at 7 p.m. in the O’Donnell Auditorium of Owen Arts Center. The SMU team will argue against a short-term path to citizenship for undocumented migrants, while the Wiley team will argue for it. And the audience will get to vote on the topic.
The two teams last debated in 2009, when they completed an invitation offered in 1935 for the two schools to debate.
The debate team from the historically black college in Marshall, Texas, was made famous in 2007's “The Great Debaters,” which starred Denzel Washington. That team had debated 75 times and lost only once between 1929 and 1939 under the guidance of poet Melvin B. Tolson, including a 1935 win over the national champions from the University of Southern California.
SMU and Wiley debate teams were supposed to compete in 1935, but the debate was called off, many suspect because of negative publicity stemming from Tolson's arrest for civil rights activism. It would have been the first time a white school had hosted a debate against a black college.