The Survey Responses

Of the sixteen total responses we received from the survey, here are the results.

The first question was a declaration of political standing. To make the survey results easier, we simplified these into three camps – “left leaning”, “right leaning”, and “N/A”, for those who either didn’t indicate a stance or were otherwise not applicable to the other two camps. In simplifying the more specific stances listed, we prioritised the social leaning over the economic leaning, purely on the basis that we debate social issues more regularly than economic issues.

The results of this are as follows:

Nine for Left Leaning

Five for Right Leaning

Two for N/A

Already we can see a clear bias in the membership of the society, as the Left Leaning camp outnumbers the Right Leaning camp considerably. This is unsurprising though, as universities are generally left leaning, Brighton especially.

The second question was “On a scale of 1-5, how comfortable do you feel expressing your opinions within Brighton Debate Society?” The results of this are as follows:

On average, 4.0

The Left Leaning camp on average, 4.1

The Right Leaning camp on average, 3.6

The N/A camp on average, 4.5

From this it would appear that Right Leaning individuals are less comfortable expressing their opinions within the Society than Left Leaning individuals, but both camps are more comfortable expressing their opinions than not.

The question asking to explain this response was helpful. Higher rating individuals tended to cite a level of respect they experience within debate. Lower rating individuals tended to cite bad faith arguments and ridicule as the largest determinants in why they don’t feel comfortable expressing their opinions. Overall, there were more positive responses than negative, with only three responses being overwhelmingly negative.

The third question was “How much do you enjoy the Debates in the group chat?” The results of this are as follows:

On average, 3.6

The Left Leaning camp on average, 3.7

The Right Leaning camp on average, 3.2

The N/A camp on average, 4.0

From these results we can see that the Right Leaning camp enjoy the debates in the group chat much less than the Left Leaning camp, but overall there is still more enjoyment gained from debates in the chat than not.

The follow-up question asking for an explanation was again quite informative. These responses demonstrate that most of the unenjoyment of the debates in the group chat stem from the format and from the failings of individuals to operate properly within the debates. Very few of the positive responses highlight positives of debating within a group chat format, most of them praise the general benefits of participating in or observing debates in general – this demonstrates that the chat is convenient for our members but not a great platform for hosting substantive debates. The issues with conduct are easily solved in a formally moderated debate.

The fourth question expands on this further, it asked “Are you more likely to participate in debates that happen on Zoom or in the group chat?”. The results of this are as follows:

Seven responses favouring Zoom

Seven responses favouring the group chat

Two responses for ‘Neither’ (Both of these individuals specified in the follow-up question that they have no preference and like both equally)

The balance between preferences is proportionally equal between the camps

This is interesting because, as previously noted, few individuals praised the group chat for it’s superior structure for debating. This pattern continues into this follow-up question, where individuals who indicated their preference for the group chat neglect to praise the structure, opting instead to highlight its convenience. Responses from individuals who indicated their preference for Zoom, however, often focused on the structure. These responses indicate that the group chat may be a suitable alternative to Zoom, but the majority of individuals would prefer to use Zoom if it were at a more convenient time for them personally. Therefore, it can be assumed that the collective view is that the group chat is far inferior in structure, but nonetheless still allows the ability to engage with others if the individual is unable to attend the sessions.

The fifth question was “How respectful do you find the debates we have?” The results of this are as follows:

On average, 4.1

The Left Leaning camp on average, 3.6

The Right Leaning camp on average, 3.8

The N/A camp on average, 4.5

These results demonstrate that debates are usually quite respectable, and the closeness of the results between the Left and Right Leaning camps shows that there is a similar feeling amongst both camps, that debates are more respectful than not, but certainly with room for improvement. The N/A camp on the other hand, seems to be under the impression that debates are almost as respectful as they could be.

The sixth and final question was “How well does the society support free speech?” The results of this are as follows:

On average, 4.1

The Left Leaning camp on average, 4.2

The Right Leaning camp on average, 3.4

The N/A camp on average, 5.0

It’s immediately obvious that the Right Leaning camp feels that the society does a worse job of supporting free speech than the Left Leaning camp does. Again, both camps believe that the society is, overall, doing a better job than not. The reasons for this presumably stand in the fact that the majority of members, those on the Committee included, would identify as left leaning individuals, and therefore Right Leaning individuals may meet opposition in greater numbers, which can be understandably quite overwhelming and discouraging.

The follow-up question casts doubt on these averages though, as the majority of Right Leaning responses are overwhelmingly positive. The average is brought down by a small number of very low rating individuals, who cite the “status quo” of leftist thought and the ceasing of debates if too much disagreement is reached. The Left Leaning responses have roughly the same number of lower rating individuals, but the proportions make the mean score go up in relation to the Right Leaning average. The lowest ratings of the Left Leaning camp are accompanied by explanations citing a refusal to engage by some members and a clear bias within the membership. Regardless, the general impression is that free speech is fairly well supported by the society, but steps clearly need to be taken to better accommodate the Right Leaning camp who clearly feel somewhat limited.

The committee have taken these results into account and have concluded upon these following adjustments to the running and operations of the society:

Firstly, a ‘members only’ group chat will be established, which will contain only those who have purchased the membership, or related individuals with honorary memberships. Topic polls will be run in this chat. The intention here is to reduce the amount of people who vote in the polls but never attend the sessions themselves. It also incentivises the purchasing of memberships, thereby giving the committee more funds to put into the society. We hope that this measure will improve the quality of debates in the new chat, as well as improve the alignment between what topics the members want to debate in the sessions and what topics get the most votes.

Secondly, the committee are committing to more balanced moderation in the chat. The moderation in sessions is at an acceptable level, but ultimately, it’s impossible to moderate debates in chat to the same extent – the committee cannot spend all their time moderating the chat, and it will never be possible or desirable to achieve a level of formality necessary for such moderation to occur. Regardless of these limitations, committee members will try harder to remain impartial and ensure that the only attacks in chat are upon ideas, not individuals.

Thirdly, the committee would like to further encourage the membership to suggest topics for the polls. A few individuals propose topics every week, but the vast majority of individuals don’t. We would like to remind you all that you’re all more than welcome to suggest the topics, and the best way to achieve this is to message Henry on Fridays and Saturday mornings to make sure your topic is included on the poll when it’s posted.

Finally, the committee has decided upon a shift in session structure, which will be fully implemented in the new term, but we will move towards it slowly at the end of this term. We decided that there isn’t enough focus on debate, and the topics are more often than not pure discussions. As interesting as this can be, we want to put more emphasis on debate. In order to achieve this, we’ll reduce the number of topics discussed each week to two, and use the remaining time to have a more debate or persuasion based activity, perhaps flash debates where two volunteers are given a position that they must defend for a set amount of time, or even more regular balloon debates with various modifications. The intention behind this is to develop better debating skills and provide a space for our more competitive members to strut their stuff.

We hope this has been an interesting read for you all, and again we thank you for your responses in the survey. If there are any questions, the committee are always open to a message.

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