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The debates, sponsored by the Kellogg Student Association’s global affairs and academic committees, pit faculty-student teams on opposing sides of a matter of global concern.

Kellogg Debate

The Kellogg Debates

Faculty-student teams face off over the question: Should current U.S. immigration barriers be relaxed?

3/9/2011 - Professor and moderator David Besanko surveyed the roomful of students at a recent debate on immigration and couldn’t help but notice the international diversity so typical of any Kellogg group.

“It is obvious that many of you have a significant personal stake in this question,” said Besanko, the Alvin J. Huss Professor of Management and Strategy, as the students responded with laughter.

The exchange took place March 3 during the second of the “Kellogg Debates,” a series that began in December with a debate over whether the U.S. should fear or welcome the rise of China. The debates, sponsored by the Kellogg Student Association’s global affairs and academic committees, pit faculty-student teams on opposing sides of a matter of global concern.

(The views expressed by the participants do not necessarily reflect their true and actual views on the topic, or that of the Kellogg School of Management.)

Each debate ends with a post-debate poll on the resolution, which, for the immigration debate, was: Should current U.S. immigration barriers be relaxed?

Several debaters echoed poet Emma Lazarus’ words at the base of the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

“Right now it’s, ‘Give me your tired, your poor, but only if they already have a family member in the country,” said Maribeth Gainard ’11, who opposed the resolution.

“Our opponents would argue, ‘We’re not ready to absorb your huddled masses; we can’t share our land because our ancestors came here before yours,” countered Anand Shekhar ’11, who argued in favor of relaxed immigration.

Gainard and her teammate, Assistant Professor Susan Perkins, asserted that the United States should focus on re-balancing its immigrant mix to favor those with higher education and high-tech skills. Shekhar and Adam Galinsky, the Morris and Alice Kaplan Professor of Ethics and Decision in Management, argued that increased immigration will yield a net economic benefit through the entrepreneurial spirit fostered by the children of immigrants.

“There’s a long-term comparative advantage and positive economic impact of openness,” Galinsky said. “If we close off immigration today, we’re closing off opportunities for tomorrow.”

Prior to the debate, 73 percent of the audience members favored relaxed immigration; afterward, 72 percent still favored relaxation. This result was a sharp contrast from the first Kellogg Debate, when more minds were swayed. At that debate, 67 percent of the audience initially agreed that China’s growing economic dominance is a threat to the United States. Post-debate, only 50 percent continued to believe so.

“This is a great initiative by the KSA,” Srini Gopalan ’11 said after the first debate. “Macro-level debates are a must. I would be glad to participate in such debates in the future.”