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Eberly News Blog

15 Apr

This June will mark 150 years since West Virginia seceded from Virginia and became its own state. As part of the Mountain State’s official sesquicentennial celebration, two West Virginia University students will square off against two James Madison University students April 17 to debate whether West Virginia made the right choice.

The debate, which is free and open to the public, is 7-8:30 p.m. in the Mountainlair’s Rhododendron Room on the Downtown WVU Campus. The debate also will include an audience participation forum.

Aaron Sheehan-Dean, Eberly Family Professor of Civil War Studies and West Virginia Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission member, will moderate the debate.

West Virginia’s origins and history, the debate’s organizers said, are captivating topics to discuss in part because it was the only state to have been created out of the Civil War, and was geographically located in the middle of the conflict.

“The debate is really important because it bridges eras to discuss the complicated relationship between West Virginia and Virginia,” said Neil Berch, associate professor in political science and sponsor of the WVU debate team.

“While much of the debate will focus on the historical decision to secede, there will also be coverage of the similarities and differences that the two states share even today. People with an interest in political science, history, sociology and economics will all have an interest in this debate.”

Debate team members Alexandra Palmer, a senior political science major from Morgantown, and Andrew (A.J.) Warne, a senior business management major from Clarksburg, will represent WVU.

Birch said both students, as native West Virginians, bring their passion for their home state to the debate.

“I think we are a culturally unique state and Appalachia was a huge part of my upbringing,” Warne said. “This is likely the last debate I’ll ever publicly participate in, so there is a certain amount of emotion that goes into it. I actually debated my first debate ever with Allie, so there is a sense of poetic justice as well.”

JMU students Daniel Spiker, a dual major in political science and public policy administration, and Andrew Yim, a dual major in political science and philosophy, will represent Virginia in the debate.

The debate is sponsored by the West Virginia Sesquicentennial Commission with support from the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences. The WVU team is hosting this event in honor of Kay Goodwin, West Virginia Cabinet Secretary of Education and the Arts, and Sesquicentennial Commission chair.

For more information contact Neil Berch at 304-293-3811 or

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