New club hopes to promote debate on campus


Photo: Evan Blaise Walsh

Junior Daniel Halpern, stood before five self-proclaimed eager peers on Monday night in Ansin Room 605 for the inaugural meeting of Quarrel Club @ Emerson. They devoured pizza and Starbursts while arguing about campaign reform and refunding for dining services. 

Through his minor in entrepreneurial studies, or the E3 program, Halpern was assigned to create his own business venture, he said. Fueled by his love of debating and observations in class, he said he decided to create his own website: 

Halpern said he has considered himself a debater all his life, but it was Jon Stewart that really fueled his love for live disputing and sharing views instead of forcing them upon your opponent. 

“Growing up, even if I knew I was wrong about something, like a math problem or something like that, I would try to come up with the most convincing argument for why I was right to my dad,” the writing, literature, and publishing major said. “I basically just always loved hearing things I’ve never heard before from different perspectives around the world, through watching videos on YouTube and reading articles from time to time.” 

According to Halpern’s presentation at Quarrel Club, allows users to post a status declaring a view on an issue. Others have the option to challenge these posts, and also choose how long they would like to dispute with this person. Once being challenged to a quarrel, the original poster has 30 seconds to accept the request, and a live debate will begin on a separate page where other users can view and vote on the sides of the discussion, according to Halpern. For every “thumbs up” that a post gets on his stated views, they will receive 10 points, and at the end of the of the session, the quarreler with the most points wins.

“In class discussions, one view is often portrayed by the teacher, and students that agreed with the teacher felt comfortable expressing their thoughts, but students with opposing thoughts were left in the dark,” Halpern said. “If everyone is expressing views and listening and understanding each other’s opinions rather than bashing an opinion because it does not agree with yours, it will foster a much better learning environment.” 

After joining Emerson’s debate show Speechless his sophomore year and becoming the host for this semester’s season, Halpern said he fell more in love with disputing, but wanted to debate topics that were not confined by a college TV show’s regulations on appropriateness. He said he also befriended Gemma Gamberdell, the producer of Speechless, and was inspired by her motivation and management of the cast. 

“I started working on [Quarlr] this summer and thought of Gemma, who is a great motivator and manager of people,” Halpern said. “And decided that I would love to start a club with her where students can do exactly what you can do on Quarlr or Speechless, but face to face and in a casual setting.”

Gamberdell agreed to help start Quarrel Club, and according to Halpern, the two set what little free time they had aside to work on launching the organization.

Gamberdell was unable to be reached before presstime. 

For nearly an hour, Halpern talked to five peers about his concept for the club, and opened up discussions that the group wanted to talk about, so that the dialogue was not biased. 

Scott Carney, a sophomore visual and media arts major, was in attendance. He said he was inspired to join the club after observing typical class discussions at the college.

“I feel like Emerson is very one-sided with a lot of issues,” Carney said. “And I want to hear other people’s arguments and expand my views on topics to include other people’s opinions.” 

Halpern said that Quarrel Club will be much different than Emerson’s official debate team, Forensics, because it will not be a formal setting where members are expected to know the rules of a formal dispute. 

For now, the club is not yet Student Government Association(SGA) recognized, said Halpern. In the future, he said he hopes to expand, and see Quarrel Club @ Berklee, or Quarrel Club @ MIT, so that the organization can become more competitive and include more views. 

“With Quarlr and Quarrel Club, I really want to make that great leap toward a more open community where the importance of humility and honest, real debate will overshadow the concerns of being ‘appropriate,’” he said.