Faculty Smackdown Debate Celebrates 10th Anniversary in 2021

November 8, 2021

by Zhanel Kozhagapanova

The Faculty Smackdown Debate, a FUNdraiser in support of the United Way of British Columbia, celebrates its 10thanniversary this year. On Thursday, November 18th the student nominated faculty debaters will trade quips in pursuit of the coveted Gnome-It-All Award. 

First held in 2012, the Faculty Smackdown Debate was initiated and produced by Gwynne Roseborough, manager, multimedia and internal communications, in Student Services, during her term as chair of SFU’s United Way campaign. She was inspired by debating societies at other universities and CBC Radio’s program The Debaters."Debate is quite a tradition in itself and I knew it would be appealing to students to nominate professors and hoped that the combination would be a way of bringing together the SFU community," says Gwynne.

Naming the debate "Smackdown" was the brainchild of Paul Budra, a professor in the Department of English and moderator from 2016 – 2018.  He took the term from professional wrestling and ran with that for the nicknames of debaters. "I actually took my nickname, Bam Bam, from a professional wrestler named Bam Bam Bigelow."

The Faculty Smackdown Debate 2018

With 12 debaters participating each year, the nomination process is key to the success of the debate.  Students nominate faculty members who are known for their sense of humour. Once the slate of debaters is finalized, they have 3 weeks to prepare and choose their nicknames. Topics from previous years include: Monday should be eliminated, Truth is better than dare, and Sharing is overrated.

For the debate itself, there are 4 teams of 3 people. The first debaters of each team have 3 minutes to state their case for or against the resolution. The winners are chosen by audience applause and receive the Gnome-It-All award. "We wanted to give something unusual to the winners, and since these are funny debates, the prize should be funny too," explains Gwynne.

The debate is a special day for everyone involved including the faculty as they get to use their creativity and humour to impress the audience. Debaters also dress the part and the years where they have dressed as Sailor Moon and a Scottish clansman are memorable for Paul. “The Faculty Smackdown Debate is a great way of meeting faculty members from different parts of the university and coming together in a spirit of light-hearted fun while supporting local communities through the United Way.” 

The Faculty Smackdown Debate 2016

This year’s moderator is Helene Love, lecturer in the School of Criminology. “What's special about the debate for me is the sense of community it builds within SFU. I get the chance to be a bit silly and have some fun with colleagues from other departments that I might not otherwise get to meet.” The debate also gives Helene an opportunity to see the funny and creative side of the brilliant academics she works with at the university. “In addition to community building, it’s all for a good cause.”

Producing this event requires careful preparation and support. Staff and faculty from across the university volunteer their time and talents to help Gwynne prepare for and produce the debate over six weeks every fall. This includes donated services from Facility Services, IT Services, Meeting, Events, and Conference Services, Student Services, and University Communications and Marketing. 

The debate was held virtually in 2020 due to the pandemic. What remained unchanged was humor, fun and joy. "Normally, we have teams, but last year debaters were in pairs which meant more questions than usual were asked," says Gwynne. The audience gave virtual applause to select winners which will be incorporated for this year’s debate. 

The Faculty Smackdown Debate 2019

The Faculty Smackdown event is one of the many events that make up SFU’s successful United Way Workplace Campaign. “Every year, the SFU community comes together to raise much needed funds for United Way. Efforts of volunteers like Gwynne who have put in so much head and heart to make our annual campaign a success is greatly appreciated. A huge shout out to them!” says Sobhana Jaya-Madhavan, AVP, External Relations and SFU representative on United Way Cabinet.

For Gwynne, all the debates have been exceptionally entertaining. “I’m so glad that Smackdown provides a platform for faculty to use humour as a way to draw attention to important societal issues of vulnerability and isolation that United Way addresses in our local communities.” She hopes that Smackdown inspires students in the audience to look for opportunities to creatively engage in community-building initiatives wherever and whenever the time is right for them when they enter the workforce.

Tickets are available at: https://sfusmackdown2021.eventbrite.ca

There are a limited number of tickets for in-person attendance and a livestream option is available. All proceeds from ticket sales support the United Way of British Columbia and remain in our community.


The Faculty Smackdown Debate 2014