Professor Alfred C. “Tuna” Snider was a world-renowned debate coach and judge who viewed debate not only as a means for students to succeed in their academic pursuits and professional lives, but also as a way to promote world peace.
Born in California, he discovered his calling in seventh grade when he joined his school’s debate team, and would become a champion high school and college debater. Professor Snider attended Brown University, Emerson College and the University of Kansas. He was the Edwin W. Lawrence Professor of Forensics at the University of Vermont. He studied active communication situations, especially argumentation, persuasion and debate, and how they can lead to more just, peaceful and convivial futures. He taught courses in the role of communication in influence and civic engagement along with the study of rhetoric.
Dr. Snider directed the World Debate Institute and the University of Vermont’s Lawrence Debate Union, which ranked number seven in the world in 2011 before the London School of Economics, Harvard and Stanford universities. He was the coach of the USA national team for the World Schools Debate Championship.
He did debate training in over 45 countries. Dr. Snider published several books on debating and edited or wrote over 50 volumes about debating and for debaters. He pioneered using the Internet and new media for debating. He maintained one of the world’s busiest debate websites, Debate Central (debate.uvm.edu), and was the editor of Global Debate (globaldebateblog.blogspot.com). Professor Snider hosted 495+ television and thousands of radio programs, and designed and implemented training programs to increase critical thinking and critical advocacy in a variety of settings.
Professor Snider promoted debate and critical communication as an alternative to violence and conflict as well as a method for achieving real democracy and a true civil society. In a 2004 interview with Seven Days, an alternative newspaper in Burlington, Professor Snider said, "My agenda is to fight back the darkness by trying to bring the light of human reason. I want to replace weapons with words. I want every citizen to be a debater…. I like to take debate where it’s not. Yeah, I’ve lectured at Oxford and Cambridge, but I don’t really feel they need me to tell them that debate’s cool and they should do it. They’re all set. But I do like to go to Serbia, Chile and Mongolia. My favorite countries are dictatorships in the process of falling, or where they recently got out of a long period of authoritarian rule."
Dr. Snider received every major award given to debate educators in the United States, including the Pelham Coach of the Year award, the Don Brownlee Service to Debate award, the Ziegelmueller Debate Coaching award, the Slappey Diversity in Debate award, the Douglas Dedication to Debate award and the Jacobsohn Service to Debate award. His work in promoting debate has also brought him awards from Emory University, the University of Utah, Cornell University, Binghamton University, the University of South Carolina as well as from the National Forensic League and the Cross Examination Debate Association. He was very active in WUDC/BP format debate activities, and served several times as the training director at the International Debate Academy held in Europe.
Professor Snider served as President of the USA’s Cross Examination Debate Association and as the Director of Operations for the National Forensic League’s national high school speech and debate championship, attended by over six thousand people and lasting one week. He was the Director of Operations for the World Schools Debating Championships in Washington DC in September 2008, attended by 39 countries. He directed dozens of debate tournaments in different parts of the world. He served as a consultant to the Open Society Institute, the New York Urban Debate League, the National Association for Urban Debate Leagues, the History Channel, the Associated Leaders of Urban Debate, the International Debate Education Association, the National Public Policy Forum, Singapore Ministry of Education, Slovenia Institute of Education and DEBATE-Kansas City.
Dr. Snider hosted regular weekly radio programs between 1983-2000 featuring Reggae music as well as experimental music. He served as the master of ceremonies for the Vermont Reggae Festival between 1984-2002 as well as holding all of the various offices of the Committee for Vermont Reggae Festival, Inc.
Dr. Snider’s mottos included “Replacing weapons with words,” and “Think for yourself.”
Dr. Snider is survived by his wife Bojana Skrt, daughter Sarah Jane Green, and two grandchildren, Levi and Jackson Green.