Migrants and Musical Chairs


Returning from a refreshing Spring Break, the Society happily gathered for the tenth time this semester and eighth Merrick debate to consider Resolved: Migration is a human right. Making his induction, Mr. Ben Mazzara (COL ’15) of Connecticut keynoted on the affirmation alongside Vice President Anna Hernick (SFS ’16) of Georgia. Also making his induction, Mr. Luke Schafer (COL ’16) of New York spoke for the negation with Mr. Michael Mouch (SFS ’15) of Texas.

Fantastically sporting a full kilt for the occasion, Mr. Mazzara warmly thanked the Society for the opportunity to join. After carefully defining migration to mean “international, interstellar, or intergalactic movement for settlement”, he appealed to John Locke and the United Nations to argue that citizens have a right to leave their state if it violates their freedom. As Americans, we were prevented from migrating by the tyrannical Proclamation of 1763. Mr. Mazzara maintained that we must believe in the rights of our forbearers and affirm.

After cheerfully thanking his friends for bringing him to the Philodemic, Mr. Schafer implored the floor to avoid esoteric nonsense like “Do rights exist?” He urged everyone to remember that rights cannot be excessively restricted. Since migrants intend to settle rather than seek temporary relief, any attempt to call migration necessary is fundamentally flawed.

Earnestly appealing to America’s values, Vice President Hernick maintained that circumstances of birth do not make anyone property of their state. Forbidding migration would unjustly coerce people to stay put despite their own will and fundamentally violate their human dignity.

Breaking with longstanding Philodemic tradition, Mr. Mouch pushed back against the affirmation’s use of unsubstantiated philosophical authority. Returning to longstanding Philodemic tradition, he ignored his own advice, using Kant to argue that morals must be absolute. With that theory he assailed any cop-out attempts to qualify migration as a “restricted” right. Questioning the practicality of allowing 100 million Africans to come to America, he boldly challenged the affirmation to account for the burden unrestricted migration would place on politics and social safety nets worldwide.

Ms. Madeline Ringwald criticized Mr. Mouch for focusing on policy during a rights debate while I stressed that under the framing the affirmation had to argue in favor of migrant conquistadors like Cortés. President DiMisa countered my argument, positing that rights can conflict and must be balanced. Mr. Patrick Eisen accepted this reasoning, but maintained the right to control over one’s culture is so great that it will always outweigh any potential right of others to migrate.

Brazenly throwing my conquistador argument out the window, Mr. Patrick Spagnuolo insisted that conquest and migration share nothing in common. Linking the right to migrate with the right to life, he stressed that sometimes food, water, and shelter might only be found across a border. Mr. Samuel Kleinman rejected this attempt to link one right to another since migration can trample the very important right to property but Ms. Emily Coccia eloquently countered that the right to make a home in a country does not entail a right to take that country from others.

In a confident and enthralling speech, Mr. Patrick Hughes (COL ’15) entreated the Society to remember the cardinal rule of Star Trek: no society may be interfered with. Since migrants rob native peoples of their self-determination, the affirmation contradicts itself when it claims that people ought to be able to choose the society they live in. Acknowledging that making migration a right poses challenges, Mr. Thomas Shuman (COL ’17) valiantly stayed true to his ideals and insisted that we ought to try anyway. Unsurprisingly, Mr. Taylor Willis held that pragmatism is a higher virtue than idealism and pointed to Bleeding Kansas as an example of the massive violence that unchecked migration can cause.

Mr. Gregory Miller maintained that fundamental rights like migration can be checked and limited while Ms. Amanda Wynter rejected the whole rights language of the debate for treating rights as if they were part of an equation. Humans are entitled to rights, while migration must be earned.

Mr. Jacob Arber blasted the idea that rights cannot involve work, especially when so many migrants are persecuted, but Sgt. Warren Wilson quickly dismissed this radical individualism for failing to consider that societies require trust. “Humanity is not expressed in fleeing terrors but in building the world together.” Challenging his best friend’s communitarian ethic, Mr. David Edgar insisted that since rights deal with individuals, the migrant need not be accepted in a new land to have a right to settle there.

Echoing Mr. Wilson and speaking against his mentee, Chancellor Peter Prindiville countered that rights must be consistent. Since migration challenges the right of societies to determine their own destiny, it cannot stand. Ms. Colleen Wood assailed what she saw as the chancellor’s cynicism and anti-Americanism, pointing to migrant Turks in Germany as an example of constructive, rather than destructive migrants.

As only a student of the SFS could,[1] Ms. Abigail Grace asserted that all rights ultimately come from the state. Since migration is never in the interests of states, it will never be deemed a right. Poetically, it was the NGO-loving Mr. Kevin Diasti who contested this radical expansion of state authority, pointing to Rwanda as a place where migration without government approval is more than justified.

When the debate returned to the keynoters, Mr. Mouch forced the Society to face reality. Since the vast majority of people do not have the resources to migrate, calling migration a right serves no real purpose. Quoting our Pope, Vice President Hernick attacked what she called Mr. Mouch’s indifference, instead idealistically asserting that the Philodemic has a duty to defend the human rights of life and liberty, and migration.

Rejecting that list, Mr. Schafer urged the Society to treat migration as it does membership in its own ranks: something to be earned. Instead of giving up, migrants ought to help solve the problems in their homelands. Mr. Mazzara lambasted Mr. Schafer and the rest of the negation for completely mischaracterizing his side. Rights may sometimes conflict, be limited, and be exploited, but that does not mean they must be steamrolled out of existence. Migration won’t cause international game of musical chairs; it must be protected.

After Mr. Mazzara’s convincing speech, the Society voted 32- 4-14 to affirm.

These particularly eloquent speakers won Merrick points:

  • Sgt. Warren Wilson – 1
  • Mr. Ben Mazzara and Ms. Amanda Wynter – 3
  • Mr. Michael Mouch – 4
  • Mr. Jacob Arber – 5

With one week to go, the race to keynote Merrick is a close one!

  1. Mr. Patrick Spagnuolo – 23
  2. Ms. Amanda Wynter – 15
  3. Mr. Jacob Arber – 12
  4. Ms. Colleen Wood and Sgt. Warren Wilson – 11
  5. Ms. Heather Regen and Chancellor Peter Prindiville – 9
  6. Mr. David Edgar – 7
  7. Mr. David Cunningham – 5
  8. Ms. Caroline Egan, Mr. Michael Mouch, and Mr. Dennis Quinn – 4
  9. Mr. Daniel Kendrick and Mr. Ben Mazzara – 3
  10. Ms. Madeleine Ringwald – 2
  11. Ms. Asha Thanki and Ms. Emily Coccia – 1

Most importantly, we inducted Mr. Mazzara and Mr. Schafer. I give them a hearty huzzah!


Michael Whelan


[1] Don’t take this the wrong way SFSers! In the words of Dean Gillis, “It’s a wonderful trade school!

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