By Brenna Cisler
This event was exciting as usual with the contestants battling it out to determine who was worthy of the final spot on the life raft! In case you are unfamiliar with the annual Honors event, Life Raft, allow me to set the scene: an apocalypse has struck, and by some sort of luck, only St. Norbert College Honors students have survived and are tasked with starting a new society on a distant island. There is only one spot left on the life raft in which the Honors students will travel on to reach the island. They must decide which professor is worthy of being selected for the final spot: Dr. Hagedorn, Father Neilson, Dr. Russel, or Dr. Flood. Each contestant has five minutes to make their case as to why they should be the one chosen to accompany the Honors students on the life raft, followed by two minutes each to counteract any claims or arguments made by each contestant. Finally, Judge Hammer, the defending champion from last year, served as the devil’s advocate and was given ten minutes to attack each contestant and tried to persuade the Honors students that none of the candidates are worthy of their choice. He argued that they would actually be better off without any of them. A vote was then taken by the honors students and a champion was named.
Dr. Hagedorn, a professor of philosophy, started out the exciting night with his opening arguments, making the case that if he was chosen, honors students would get all disciplines of study, since all disciplines are originally derived from the study of philosophy. He took a jab at Dr. Russel and Dr. Ford, both professors in the sciences, arguing that if they were chosen, they would only focus on immediate physical needs. He argued they would fail to consider society’s long term needs, such as culture and knowledge, that only a philosopher, like himself, could provide. He took a further jab at Dr. Russel, pointing out that, because Dr. Russel brought his own kayak to the event, he clearly did not need a spot on the life raft. Dr. Hagedorn ended his remarks by pleading honors students not to listen to Judge Hammer’s later remarks that would attempt to persuade not to take any of the professors on the life raft. He claimed that such an idea severely lacks moral values and that if there is one spot left on the life raft, someone should get it. He stated that it would be inhumane to leave one perfectly empty space unfilled.
Father Neilson, O’Praem, a professor of art and theology, was the second contestant to make his case. He took a tone that, according to Dr. Flood, resembled a stand-up comedian. He pointed out that he was the one who had given many Honors students their first A in college, starting them on a path to good GPA’s. Father Neilson also made the incredible promise that, due to his background in art, he could personally guarantee us that everyone would all be pretty if he was chosen to accompany honors students on the life raft. He also pointed out that they did not really need any of these academic people along with us on the life raft — they are all honors students, and already know everything, he claimed — what is needed is fun, which is what Father Neilson promised he would provide. He also said that he could bring his kindness; he said that someone had to be the one to say something nice when somebody ultimately kicks the bucket, which, as a priest, he would be able to contribute.
Dr. Russel, a professor of chemistry, was the third to make his argument for why he should get the last spot on the life raft. He listed off all of the ways in which an organic chemist would be useful to an up and coming society, such as knowing how to use oil to power and create things, such as refrigerators. He also played a game that he called, “sounds like snow” that he plays with the students in his classes. He would ask the audience a question about chemistry and the audience would respond with “no”. Or, he would play a game called “sounds like evenings in Venice” to which the audience would respond “organic chemist” when he asked us a question about who it is who is responsible for certain things related to organic chemistry. Many students in the audience understood the game’s humor, while many of the other students who had not taken his classes in the audience were mildly confused, as noted by Judge Hammer later on.
Dr. Flood, a professor of geology, was the final contestant to make his case for the remaining spot on the raft. He spent much of his time taking shots at Father Neilson, accusing him of trying to use stand-up comedy to be selected. He pointed out that Father Neilson, during his opening arguments, had crossed the physical line on the stage that was supposed to keep the speakers six feet from the audience. He argued that if Father Neilson was going to be reckless by putting students lives in danger by crossing the line, he cannot be trusted to aid survival on a life raft in the middle of the ocean. Dr. Flood ended his arguments with a long poem that he had memorized about having grit and powering through tough situations, which he argued honors students would face out on the life raft.
To end the night, Judge Hammer had 10 minutes attack each of the contestants. Judge Hammer brought up the fact that in college, Dr. Hagedorn had written his thesis on how in philosophy, the correct answer is often the simplest answer, which drew a roaring laugh from the audience. Judge Hammer also went after Father Neilson, bringing up an article in which Father Neilson had written once that one of his hobbies is growing “medical plants,” to which Father Neilson responded with a nod and a big wink to the laughing audience. Judge Hammer also brought up the fact that Father Neilson had once brought a tattoo artist into one of his classes for a demonstration. When it came to Judge Hammer’s attacks on Dr. Russel, he kept it short by simply saying that he didn’t understand a single thing that Dr. Russel had said. Finally, Judge Hammer went after the fact that Dr. Flood’s specialty is volcano research, which is the last thing that we want to encounter when we are on a life raft, he claimed. He also pointed out that Dr. Flood is almost too comfortable with the great outdoors and that he would find the expedition boring and probably leave students to fend for themselves so that he can go on a more exciting journey alone.
Once Judge Hammer had finished his remarks, everyone in the audience scanned the QR code on the screen and had a minute to fill out the ballot to decide who we would take to fill the final spot on our hypothetical life raft. In the end, it was Dr. Russel who successfully secured his spot on the life raft and came away with the win of the 2021 Honors Life Raft event!