The HBS debate team scored a crushing victory over the Yale School of Management at the recent HBS-Yale SOM debate. The motion before the crown was “This House believes that the US Government should impose a windfall tax on US oil corporations.”
Adrian Brown, President of the Leadership and Ethics forum, began the evening by introducing the conventions associated with the British Parliamentary debating system. A rowdy HBS crowd was taught the standard cheers of “Hear Hear” and “For Shame,” which they were encouraged to utter when necessary throughout the evening. And it often was. The Yale team then entered the Spangler auditorium to encouraging applause. However, this was somewhat drowned-out by the HBS team entering to Eminem. After taking a few moments to introduce the judges, the debate began. Assigned to argue in favor of the motion no earlier than one hour before the debate, the HBS team appeared at first glance to be at a disadvantage.
Tara Bagherzade (NC) opened in proposition for HBS, eloquently framing the fact that the argument was not one of practicality, but one of ethics and ideology. Given this, a windfall tax was the right thing to moderate the profits caused by exogenous events. She was closely followed by Yale’s opposition, who did his best to discredit HBS’s argument and steer the debate onto practicalities. However, Joe Robbins (NJ) combated easily, discrediting Yale by asking how on earth any business school student could ever consider the practical implementation of such a law, and citing precedent windfall laws going back as far as World War II. Yale’s second speaker, however, attacked back, pointing out that such an imposition would unjustly prevent US corporations from reaping the fruits of their hard-earned success.
The debating then broke off for the interrogators. Both Bagherzade and Robbins were asked testing questions on their beliefs and ethics, but washed over the questions with ease. Rahul Desai (NF) then subjected Yale to a grueling and humorous questioning session (with mention of his many ex-girlfriends) that left the New Haven school reeling from a precise and apposite attack.
To say that Neil Mahapatra (NG) then subjected Yale to a vicious closing speech would be an understatement. Despite eloquently debunking Yale’s arguments, many in the audience felt that he was perhaps a little too harsh on Harvard’s rival. However, the tension was eased by Yale’s closing opposition speaker who questioned his ethics before launching into an emotional yet utterly irrelevant speech on her childhood and how depriving people of hard-earned profits was simply wrong.
In a 2-1 split decision, the judges ultimately sided with the HBS team, citing their ability to frame the debate in ethical terms rather than allowing Yale to move into a rebuttal argument based on the tax’s perceived impracticality. The HBS victory marks their first win over Yale SOM in three years.