An estimated 200 students and faculty turned out for the event.
Sponsored and moderated by the Political Awareness Committee (PAC), the debate featured two panels of students, one supporting the Bush administrations policy on Iraq and the other opposing it.
Arguments were expressed on both sides dealing with how the United States should enforce U.N. resolutions calling for Iraqi disarmament and what should be done about Husseins violations of human rights.
PAC coordinator Lauren Topel 03, who moderated the debate said that she was pleased to see students behave in a respectful manner and thought that the discussion was controlled, yet passionate.
The event was organized after some faculty members expressed concerns of students being apathetic about the issue.
"Our committee didnt feel that way," Topel said. "But we think it could have been more of students voicing their opinions with other students rather than sharing their views with faculty."
Anti-war panelist Matt Pelikan 03 agreed with this assessment.
"While it is always hard to break free from the little bubble of college life, I am generally proud of the St. Olaf community for being involved on this issue," Pelikan said.
The debate has also garnered tremendous feedback from students..
"The response has been amazing," Pelikan said. "So many people have been talking about it and about the issues that were raised. Even people that werent there have come up to me and talked about it, so I think that the debate did a great job of spreading dialogue about the war, and letting students think about it more."
Students who were neutral on the issue heading into the debate said that they came away with new perspectives.
"Both sides presented good information," Meghan Cook 05 said. "The student questions at the end, however, tended to be more comments than questions, which was somewhat frustrating."
Cook said that she thought the students on the pro-administration side were more concise with their information and their statistics were more reliable.
Andrea Boyum 05 said that she was leaning to the pro-administration side before the debate, but was impressed by the convincing evidence presented on both sides.
For myself, this wasnt a debate that was going to sway me, but it was merely an opportunity to learn more about the political views of the situation, Boyum said.
Pro-administration student Nicholas Grey 04 opened the debate with comments challenging the ideals of pacifism.
"The institutions of police and courts prove that our society is not pacifist," Grey said. "If pacifism worked there would be no need for these institutions."
Grey said that the Bush administrations reasons for pursuing the disarmament of Hussein were based on real concern for national security and not on ambiguous charges of oil interests.
Anti-war panelist Annie Olson 04 said that a U.S. attack of Iraq would be illegal and in violation of international law.
Olson also said that an attack could inflame the Muslim community, further stirring up anti-American sentiment.
"Three thousand bombs would be dropped on Iraq in the first 48 hours of war," Olson said.
Katie Rusch 05 presented evidence supporting the Bush administrations claim that our national security is at risk. Rusch pointed to Husseins defiance of United Nations resolutions, violations of human rights, and his stockpile of weapons of mass destruction.
"There is a necessity to enforce international law," Rusch said regarding U.N. resolution 1441 that called for the complete and immediate disarmament of Iraq. "Saddam has defied 16 U.N. resolutions for over 12 years."
Anti-war student Peter Streit '03 shifted the audiences attention to what a possible Iraq after war could look like.
Streit said that if the United States acts unilaterally in its movement for war then they will also be unilaterally responsible for the consequences.
"People around the world will be looking at us to clean up the mess," Streit said.
Doug McGregor 03, supporting the administration, pointed to the fact that Resolution 1441 did not call for weapons inspectors to go hunting for Saddams arsenal, but that the burden of proof was on Saddam to prove that he has fully disarmed.
"Saddam will be disarmed. He must be disarmed, the lives of millions of Iraqis and Americans rests on it," McGregor said.