Sage Gerard challenged to debate

Brian Neal Clyne from Kennesaw State University’s Atheists United (AU) club has challenged me to debate on the topic “Did Feminism Get It Wrong?” This invitation has come after my attempt to join the club, which is part of an ongoing effort for KSUM to network with other groups. AU is also working on getting Dr. Richard Dawkins to visit KSU and deliver a speech.

AU is marketed by The Sentinel as a catalyst of open dialogue, using language one would expect from an organization attempting to make a positive impression.

I happily accepted the invitation to debate and requested we do the debate on a Google+ Hangout. Brian’s response is as follows:

I will not debate you online because that is not a real debate. A real debate is in person, neutrally moderated (as you said, to your credit), and in front of a live audience. I will need to look at my schedule, but anytime on a Friday should work for me. You would need to set up a large room as a public event through Student Life. And ensure that I have enough time to prepare for it and that it fits with my schedule.

I admire the fact that you have the “courage of your convictions.”

And when I say “debate,” I mean a Socratic Debate, where we are both given equal time to make our claims, equal time to rebut one another, then time for the live audience to ask questions. I do not mean us yelling at one another, helter-skelter.

If we do this well, both you as an activist and me as a Feminist will garner great acclaim and support from the community, as well as dispelling any misconceptions about our positions on the topic.

I will not bring up religion unless you do, which I would not advise because it is my expertise.

Doing it on Google instead of live will make us both look pathetic.

Propose a time and date and I will let you know if it works for me. Let’s do this right! Not online, in person! Find a moderator and put it together.

I read your article in the paper, and was actually impressed that you held your own.

Your group and yourself have acquired quite the reputation on campus. Now is the time and means to set the record straight.

Do not speak ill of me to my group, nor harass the ladies in my group and I will do the same: be a respectful member of your group. Do not have your people join my group to do the same and we will be fine. Actually, it would be best if we both left along with our other members, one another’s groups so there is no question of conflict of interests, nor could anyone say that we “staged” all of this.

Think about it; let me know.
National Society of Collegiate Scholars
Phi Theta Kappa
KSU Atheists United

Hi Brian,

Thanks for the email. It’s interesting to run into a fellow Phi Theta Kappan after all of these years. I was an officer for the Omicron Alpha chapter during my junior college degree program. As a brief aside, I was competing for a regional webmaster position, but I voluntarily gave up the race to a woman in Omicron Alpha because she wanted the regional historian position, and we could only have one candidate per chapter. There are many other stories I could share about my experience as the only male officer for a year, but I’ll put those aside for the time being to discuss the debate.

I’m fine with a Socratic debate in a classroom with plenty of prep time for both of us. I think you can appreciate my wish for the debate to be published online so that people outside of campus can benefit from the experience. The emergent perspective of the campus audience will not be as diverse as that of the general public, after all. If we record in a classroom, cameras can be rented from the KSU AVTS offices. If cameras cannot be acquired, then audio recorders are a minimally acceptable fallback.

But before I get too ahead of myself, I need to question some of your propositions in the interest of a fair negotiation.

What evidence proves that our debate would be a yelling match? Also, why does the tone of your email suggest that I am likely to harass women in your group? Another email you sent to the members reads as follows:

Atheists United

First off, I did not know about your wanting to debate me until you started posting stuff after my joining AU on OwlLife.*

Second, I’m getting mixed messages. On one hand, you say that AU is happy that I joined, but apparently my messages are subject to screening based on AU’s standard of what is offensive. Who sets that standard, and why is that standard objective and fair? The following OwlLife email notification makes it appear as if the standard is based on community impressions, in this case, the opinions of female members.

Brian Clyne AU Wall

I really do not care if you speak negatively about KSUM (it looks like that already happened anyway). Besides, there is no record to set straight when the news in The Sentinel did that already, as opposed to the silly editorial that just repeated busted myths. I also don’t understand the need to act so protective of the women in AU. They are independent people who don’t need anyone to speak for them.

Finally, you won’t need to screen my messages because I will be posting where AU can’t touch them anyway. I don’t need anyone’s approval to speak.

Factoring all this in, plus your recommendation to keep our memberships separate, I wonder how AU is as conducive to open discussion as The Sentinel suggests.

But I digress because the opinions of AU members on my membership are not relevant to a negotiation on debate terms.

I work 65+ hours a week, and I really don’t care if we debate or not. I just think it would be fun if it happens. KSUM members are already setting up a $13,000 conference that demands our entire focus. Our time is too valuable to change everything we are doing on an outside whim.

Your wanting to debate is not my responsibility. And if I’m going to be treated as some potential “problem,” then do you really expect me to do work for AU? You are the challenger, so I’m not going to trouble myself with setting up the venue.

I hear your desire for formality, and I understand and respect your wish to do things academically. But consider the pragmatics of the situation and ask yourself if perhaps pedantry and bureaucracy can incur unnecessary expenses for both of us. I recommend a G+ Hangout not because it’s what I want but because it is much easier to schedule and there is no expense involved with arranging a venue or acquiring cameras. The cost of bureaucracy drops to nothing, and we still get the benefit of doing it live with a moderator.

As for it looking “pathetic” or somehow not genuine, that’s an opinion. This is not Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham, so why worry so much about the image? Neither one of us are that special, and I doubt anyone would sit and give us grief if we adopted an online format with webcams.

A picture of every Google+ hangout audience, I guess. (Source:

Other people donate to this organization, so I’m not going to disrespect their contributions by bending to an aggressive will. They are also not “my people” in the sense that I can tell them what to do. They don’t belong to anyone, and I respect their choice to decide their involvement for themselves. I’m not going to tell KSUM members to drop everything and work according to your terms and your schedule. KSUM is not for anyone to dictate, including myself. I am an officer working with respectable people whom I consider to be moral equals, and I include feminists in that description, especially if they show up and work hard. It’s the people who sit off in the distance making demands that end up fading into irrelevance.

What kind of leader would I be if I did what you told me to do? I don’t insist that AU do what I want. In fact, I only proposed what can help us both.

You want the debate, and you want it in a classroom.


I’m not setting that up.

I await your reply on how to approach the debate, but note that all correspondence with me is subject to publication.

I wish you the best of luck in funding your event to bring Dawkins down to KSU.

Sage Gerard
Founder, Kennesaw State University Men
Collegiate Activism Director, A Voice for Men

* OwlLife is a social media platform for KSU student organizations.

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