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Great Debate vs. Stanford takes on timely topic: Pre-emptive force

- There's no axe at stake, no goalposts will be toppled, but intellectual bragging rights are very much on the line this Wednesday (May 7) when UC Berkeley's debate team takes on traditional rival Stanford at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco.

The forensic faceoff, dubbed the "Great Debate," is a fund-raiser for both debate squads. This year's edition could raise tempers as well as money, given the timely proposal the two sides will be arguing: "The threat of pre-emptive force is a prerequisite to effective United States diplomacy." Cal won the toss, and will argue against the proposition – a strategic choice by the debaters, but one likely to engender support in war-averse Baghdad-by-the-Bay.

The Cal-Stanford debates have a long and storied history that almost dried up when the Cal team disbanded in the 1960s. But the squad was revived in 1996, with alumni help, and has quickly become a formidable force; they are now ranked sixth in the nation.

The program begins at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Commonwealth Club, 595 Market St., second floor, San Francisco. Admission is $15, $5 for students.