College’s debating societies have a combined age of over 600, so when it comes to semester two activities, they possess a wealth of experience. I don’t know about you, but as the Auditor of Law Soc organizing the society’s second-semester activities and a final-year student looking to take advantage of what I have left in college, I was very keen to hear what they had to say. So, I sat down with President of the Phil, Ellen McKimm, and Auditor of the Hist, Seb Dunne Fulmer, to get the scoop on what debating fanatics can expect this Hilary Term.
Seb pointed out that “Semester 2 is always a bit mental.” For students, that’s because it’s ball season, but for society hacks — like myself and Seb — it’s because the space on the calendar gets massively restricted with elections. Nevertheless, the Hist seems to have filled every available space — Highlights that you can expect from them this semester include an upcoming comedy debate with VDP: “This house believes that I can fix him (I absolutely can … can’t I?)” and a mini, one day version of maidens for any freshers who want to get their teeth stuck back into debating or who have yet to try it out.
“Using more laid-back events, such as both of their sold-out Karaoke nights, the Hist has successfully cultivated an environment where fresher engagement is beating out pre-Covid numbers.”
Speaking about their personal highlight from Semester One, Seb pointed out that they were “especially happy” with the Maidens competition. For the Hist, they emphasized fresher involvement and approachability this year, and they are reaping the rewards; the Auditor notes that this area is “what really went well for us.” Using more laid-back events, such as both of their sold-out Karaoke nights, the Hist has successfully cultivated an environment where fresher engagement is beating out pre-Covid numbers. Therefore, it is no surprise that there are more informal social events to come — So keep your eyes peeled!
“Members of the Bram Stoker Sub-Committee will start the Bramcast, a student-led podcast.”
For Ellen, community and approachability are hugely important. This semester, she is looking forward to a number of subcommittee-led events. For example, The Eliz (a Phil subcommittee promoting female debating) has the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre CEO Noeline Blackwell, scheduled to give a talk. In addition, members of the Bram Stoker Sub-Committee (one of the Phil’s subcommittees) will start the Bramcast, a student-led podcast. Ellen takes a lot of pride in the growth and rebuilding of these subcommittees. She remarks that debating is renowned for being an old boys’ club, but with the successful launch of the Eliz, she has delighted in watching more and more women getting involved.
Interestingly, both societies have intervarsity events on the horizon: The Hist will be having Oxford’s Student Economic Review flying over to debate with some of their top talent, who are all preparing as we speak, having been selected after trials last semester. The Phil will also be debating Oxford, but they will be flying to the UK to debate against the Union.
With so many incredible events ahead, I asked both Seb and Ellen to reflect and give me their thoughts on their year to date. Both have found it incredibly rewarding. They have both watched as their committees and members have grown in confidence while the societies have grown in numbers. Whilst the second semester tends to have fewer events, both have personal highlights on the horizon: Ellen is particularly excited about the Oxford trip and about upcoming debates (the full debate card for the Phil is available to view on their social media), and Seb is looking forward to the litany of upcoming formal and less formal events: Harney’s, another karaoke event and the SER debate, to name but a few.
Having such loaded calendars is no mean feat, but Ellen and Seb will be overseeing some of the top society events this year. So, keep an eye on The Phil’s and The Hist’s Instagrams for the debates and speakers to come.