ADA in the News

Georgia Debate Union preps for a stellar 2019

The Georgia Debate Union finished the fall semester ranked as the top ranked varsity debate team in the country according to both the American Debate Association and National Debate Tournament varsity rankings. The team is ranked third in the Cross Examination Debate Association Rankings.

The rankings are based on a points-based system whereby individual two-person teams from a university or college accumulate points based off of their wins/losses over the course of a tournament weekend. Georgia Debate Union teams finished in the top three at every major tournament it attended in the fall, including those at Georgia State University, the University of Kentucky, Gonzaga University, and Wake Forest University.

And for the second year in a row, the two-person team of Advait Ramanan and [Schwarzman Scholar] Swapnil Agrawal was invited to compete at the prestigious Dartmouth Round Robin at Dartmouth College.  The Dartmouth Round Robin is an invitation-only competition featuring the top 7 two-person debate teams in the country.  The other invitees for 2019 include teams from Harvard University, the University of California-Berkeley, Emory University, the University of Kentucky, Dartmouth College, and the University of Oklahoma.  The Round Robin will take place January 18 to January 21.

In the spring semester, teams representing the Georgia Debate Union will be attending tournaments at Georgetown University, Indiana University, the US Naval Academy, Northwestern University, and Emory University.

The Georgia Debate Union will host the American Debate Association national championship tournament March 8-10, 2019 in Athens.  Teams will also attend the National Debate Tournament, college debate’s NCAA basketball tournament equivalent, at the University of Minnesota in late March. Two teams compromised of four UGA seniors – Advait Ramanan and Swapnil Agrawal and their teammates Nathan Rice and Johnnie Stupek – have solid chances to win one or both tournaments this spring.

“It is the team’s ultimate goal that UGA win a national debate championship in 2019,” said head coach Hays Watson. “We are hopeful about our chances in the spring and we continue to be grateful for the support that UGA Student Affairs, Franklin College, the President’s Office, and the UGA Foundation provide the team, support that enables our talented undergraduates to compete against the very best college debaters in the country.”

Best of luck to the team this as they continue to take UGA to new heights in competitive debate.

No debate: Members of this team are champions

Most UM Debate Team members devote 10 to 15 hours of preparation for each tournament.

When the University of Miami Debate Team arrived at the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Debate Championship Tournament last March, they were perceived as the bridesmaid who would never be a bride.

“Historically, we were always number two,’’ said Artem Sviridov, a senior in the College of Engineering.

But by the end of the tournament, Sviridov, along with Zachary Homeijer, a feisty sophomore who studies political science and economics, clinched the title of ACC champion against Clemson, propelling the team to the top and bringing the treasured trophy to Coral Gables.

Debating in the civic style, Sviridov and Homeijer argued compellingly for the use of “death panels” (composed of doctors, ethicists, and legal experts) to determine whether a terminally ill patient can continue to get medical treatment. Then, as is customary in that style of debate, they argued against the use of such panels.

For Sviridov, that part of the exercise touched a personal cord. He lost his father to cancer when he was 10 years old. “It was very much an emotional thing for me,” he said.

On Nov. 28, Sviridov and Homeijer stood with their debate team as they took center court at the Watsco Center during the UM-Rutgers men’s basketball game to be honored for their achievements and the ACC title.

Hard work and constant preparation are a staple for this 30-member team that meets once a week for a two-hour class at the School of Communication, where they strategize, practice, and learn from their coach David Steinberg, who has been at this for the past 29 years, and Patrick Waldinger, assistant director of debate and lecturer.

“They are phenomenal,” said Steinberg, School of Communication professor of professional practice, talking about the team. “I would put us up against any team in the country. In the last several years we have averaged more than 40 people competing in intercollegiate competition every year.”

Besides doing their UM classwork, most team members devote more than 10 hours a week to prepare for tournaments at other colleges and universities throughout the year. Some members of UM Debate travel to 10 to 15 tournaments a year.

“Time management is something we definitely learn,” said Julia Lynch, a junior and top debater who manages to keep a 4.0 GPA studying finance and business law, while fully participating in debate. “But I find that I work best when I have several things to do and debate takes me away from just studying finances.”

Although winning competitions is a constant goal for the team, Steinberg said that it is secondary to the primary goal.

“Competition is simply a means to an end,” he said. “Debate is a co-curricular activity measured by the amount of participation and the educational benefit to come out of it.”

For debaters those benefits are many. Participants hone skills such as public speaking, critical thinking, research skills, listening, language, and writing skills. All this can help them in whatever chosen career they pursue.

“In high school I had to give a presentation in English class and I was actually shaking,” said Sviridov. “So when I came to UM I decided that the easier way to learn how to present was to force it on myself.”

Debating in various styles—civic, policy, and Parliamentary— also exposes the students to different ways to prepare their arguments and thus expands their acumen, said Steinberg.

Senior Kyle Kingma has participated in the Parliamentary Debate many times during his four years at UM and is used to getting the topic he has to debate a mere 15 minutes before the debate.

“You have to be able to think quickly on your feet and build upon your opponent’s arguments,” he said. Keeping up with current events and doing extensive research is essential for all debaters. They consult newspapers and magazines but also academic journals and periodicals. They use Google Scholar and Lexus Nexus, as well.

Lynch, who with then-UM senior Leandra Lopez won the prestigious Lafayette Debates in April, spent months researching French history, particularly the student riots of May 1968, a very violent time in that country, which was the topic to be debated.

During the competition, sponsored by George Washington University and the French Embassy, Lynch and Lopez defended and then debunked the notion of whether violence was justified by police in dealing with the French students.

Ironically, they won against a French School, the Ecole de Guerre. The top prize included a one-week trip to Paris, which they took during the summer. “It was my very first time in Europe,” said Lynch. “It was the most incredible experience of my life.”

Steinberg said that another advantage UM students have is being exposed to public debates. UM has hosted the Rwandan and the Irish Debate Teams in public debates where the general audience includes people from the community and other students.

“So the debaters are adapting complex material for a simple and clear presentation,” said Steinberg. “A public debate is about people learning and enjoying the exchange of ideas.”

There’s more to Army-Navy Game day than just football

Not everyone is into football — or sports. But when the cadets of West Point’s U.S. Military Academy meet the midshipmen of Annapolis’ U.S. Naval Academy in Philadelphia, they aren’t always playing football.

In a room just off the main hallway from where the press is set up to interview celebrities and military VIPs visiting the big game, a debate rages on: Should the United States implement a policy of nuclear non-first use?

The West Point team calmly lays out exact information from reputable sources to support its argument.

Unclear policy leads to unnecessary risk,” says Cadet Carter McKaughan “the US government should implement a policy against nuclear first use.

Debate teams from the two service academies are meeting each other head-on to argue the finer points of this question. Of course, in the spirit of the debate, the views expressed don’t necessarily represent the views of the speakers, the school, or the Department of Defense.

Just like the rhetoric for the football game, the rhetoric in the debate competition is heated, but respectful. The Annapolis team argues that West Point’s nuclear non-first use policy proposal will only lead to an increased need for conventional forces and that a nuclear option will be more efficient.


What has been sustainable for 73 years will continue to be sustainable,” Midshipman William Lewis argues. “Such a policy is not justified today… First-use is 73-0 in preventing great power conflict.

The debate has three parts. Each team gets two six-minute speeches to lay out their most pertinent points. The opposition gets two minutes of cross-examination questions. Back and forth, back and forth, for just under an hour.

Russia doesn’t want to face economic ruin to get Estonia,” says Cadet Tommy Hall. “First-use nuclear policy doesn’t deter them. Mutually-assured destruction keeps countries like China and the United States from a nuclear exchange, not policy.

Each side gets a five-minute rebuttal, and even the audience gets a chance to ask questions. Midshipman Nicholas Gutierrez cracks his knuckles before he begins his six-minute speech. He talks about how the nuclear deterrent and first-strike policy actually prevents armed conflict.

A first-use policy not only works, it’s the best thing we’ve had in place to save lives in all of human history,” he says.

Admittedly, it didn’t look good for Navy for much of the debate. The Army team was well-spoken and calmly laid out their salient points. In the closing minutes of the debate, Navy came out with a five-minute rebuttal that was passionate and rebuked all of Army’s points.

Like a last-minute drive down the field in the fourth quarter, Navy made its stand. Both teams were impressive in their rhetoric and passion on the subject, but Navy won the day.

The Army-Navy Debate will likely never have the sponsorships and merchandising of the Army-Navy Game. We may never see debate swag or a pair of seasoned debaters providing color commentary. But if you ever want to see the quality of education the future leaders of the U.S. military are getting at West Point an Annapolis, it’s worth a trip to the room just off the main hallway.

You just might learn something.

$1.5M Gift Will Support Debate Team’s Longevity

An alumni couple’s $1.5 million gift to Michigan State University’s debate team – the team’s largest gift ever received – ensures the nationally competitive program will enjoy ongoing scholarship and funding support for years to come.

The majority of funds from the new endowment will be used to support student scholarships for members of the debate team.

“This gift is a game-changer for the debate team, allowing us to expand our opportunities to innumerable future students,” said Casey Harrigan, director of the debate program. “Equally important is the legacy piece, ensuring that MSU Debate remains a permanent and significant institution at MSU forever, locking in all of the efforts and hard work of our alumni and staff over decades.”

A demanding activity requiring long hours of research, argument development and tournament travel, MSU has fielded debate teams off and on since the 1920s. An MSU debate team has qualified for the National Debate Tournament for the past 22 consecutive years and teams earned national championships in 2004, 2006 and 2010 – making MSU’s debate program one of the nation’s most elite.

“Developing critical thinkers could be higher education’s most vital mission, and few activities forge such skills as sharply as does competitive debate,” MSU Interim President John Engler said. “The Spartan debate team for many years has been a bright point of pride and we are grateful for the generosity of these donors, whose gift ensures our students will continue to enjoy such opportunities to excel.”

The donors wish to remain anonymous, but one competed in high school debate and in MSU Debate for a year. Her husband was not a debater, but has a strong liberal arts background. Both view debate as something that benefits participants long after graduation, no matter what their major or career path.

“The benefits of being on the debate team extended into my professional life in the banking industry,” the alumna said. “The ability to present ideas clearly and persuade others all stems from my debate experience.”

Along with the competitive team schedule, the debate program sponsors a high school tournament every December, the Spartan Classic Debate Tournament and a high school summer camp, the Spartan Debate Institute.

“We are grateful the donors wanted to invest in the lives of students for generations to come,” said Cynthia Jackson-Elmoore, dean of the Honors College. “This gift is a testament to the importance of high-impact educational experiences, many of which happen outside the classroom. The analytical and persuasion skills that debaters develop and hone serve them well beyond their time on the team.”

The gift supports Empower Extraordinary, MSU’s capital campaign that continues through Dec. 31 and has raised more than $1.75 billion in support, including the addition of 3,500 student scholarships.

UI Wins the Purdue vs. IU Debate: What IF You Could Disappear from the Internet?

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. —  Indiana University is the winner of the Purdue vs. IU debate “What IF you could disappear from the Internet” that took place Wednesday (Nov. 7).

The winner was decided by voting from the inhouse audience as well as viewers who watched the event via a livestream.

Two members of Purdue’s speech and debate team, the C. Richard Petticrew Forum, and two members of Indiana University’s debate team debated over whether the U.S. federal government should make “the right to be forgotten” from internet searches a civil right. The students covered implications for privacy, criminal activity, careers, censorship and cyberbullying.

Purdue students argued the affirmative, while IU students will argued the negative. The Purdue University and Indiana University debate students are led by James Mollison and Brian DeLong, respectively.

The debate is a part of Purdue’s celebration of its 150th year and specifically of the anniversary’s Ideas Festival, the centerpiece of Purdue’s Giant Leaps Sesquicentennial Campaign. The Ideas Festival will feature a series of events that connect world-renowned speakers and Purdue expertise in a conversation on the most critical problems facing the world. Al, Algorithms and Automation: Balancing Humanity and Technology is one of the Ideas Festival themes.

UGA Debate Team Ranked No. 1 in Nation

The football team isn’t the only University of Georgia squad chasing a national championship.

Count the UGA Debate Union in that group. They’re now ranked No. 1 by the country’s three top debate organizations — the American Debate Association, the Cross-Examination Debate Association and the National Debate Tournament.

In practice last week in Phi Kappa Hall on UGA’s North Campus, they were preparing to go to Gonzaga University, their longest road trip of the year, where they would face top teams also in the hunt this year for a national championship.

In this kind of competition, UGA and other schools often send multiple two-person teams to compete in tournaments. Two of Georgia’s teams are in the top five in the country — Swapnil Agrawal and Advait Ramanan, and Nathan Rice and Johnnie Stupek, who placed third and fifth at Gonzaga, respectively.

Another UGA team, Alyssa Hoover and Tripp Haskins, is knocking on the door of the rankings list.

A University of Kentucky team ranks first in the country, even though Rice and Stupek defeated them in a head-to-head match in a tournament this year. A Harvard twosome and a University of California-Berkeley team are also in the top five.

“I’ve got a really talented group of students,” said head coach Hays Watson, a former UGA debater who returned to the university in 2012 as a professor in the Department of Communication Studies and as debate coach.

It takes more than intelligence to excel, Rice said. Like a team sport, you’ve got to put the work in.

“We spend hundreds and hundreds of hours preparing,” he said.

For many on the team, it’s almost a full-time job; the best debaters know their subject inside and out, and that takes a lot of research.

They’ve also got a burning desire to figuratively kick your butt, especially if you happen to be rival Emory University.

This year’s debate topic asks if federal executive power should be limited. Last year’s topic wondered if the United States government should provide national health insurance.

Debaters have to know both sides of a proposition, the pros and the cons, and be prepared to advocate either for or against it. By the end of the year a debater may have been through 80 to 100 rounds of debate, each lasting around an hour and 45 minutes.

Not all debaters go on to be lawyers, but many do. Agrawal will be going to classes next year at the Harvard School of Law, for example.

At last week’s practice, Watson gave the students a weather report, and told them pack light; no checked baggage. The budget for the entire trip was $7,000, which was not enough to cover checked baggage.

The union gets more support from UGA and donations than many schools, including money for travel. Four of the team’s top six debaters have debate scholarships, and one is a Foundation Fellow, UGA’s top scholarship.

He counts himself “very lucky” to be at a university that provides as much support as UGA does in the form of scholarships and travel funds, but UGA’s debate budget pales in comparison to some of the top private universities, Watson said.

UGA has had a debate team for decades, but the program withered for several years before it was revived by Edward Panetta, now the head of Watson’s department. Panetta was National Debate Coach of the Year in 2007, when one UGA team, Brent Culpepper and Kevin Rabinowitz, won the national Rex Copeland Award for the team that has the best pre-tournament record in the country.

The teams will stage a public debate on Nov. 29 at 7 p.m. in UGA’s Russell Research Libraries building. It will be an intrasquad competition in which two UGA teams will go up against each other.

Two weeks later, the UGA team will be off to Minneapolis to participate in the National Debate Tournament.

Georgia Ranked #1 After Opening Tournaments

As of this week, UGA is ranked first in all three college debate organizational rankings – the American Debate Association, the Cross-Examination Debate Association, and the National Debate tournament – ahead of Harvard, Wake Forest, Emory, Michigan, Northwestern, among hundreds of other institutions.

UGA’s top six debaters [pictured] each earned awards at their most recent tournament at the University of Kentucky. Five members hail from the state of Georgia, four of whom are recipients of the Richard B. Russell Debate Scholarship; one is a Foundation Fellow.

The Director of Debate at the United States Naval Academy, Danielle O’Gorman, who is also the President of the American Debate Association, offered the following on the Georgia Debate Union’s successful start to the year: “I am so delighted by the success of the entire UGA squad–they have always focused on process over product, on long-term development over quick wins, and on teamwork over individual goals. Their debaters are hard-working, kind, and community-focused; it’s a pleasure to debate against them and to judge them. They truly epitomize the values of the American Debate Association and I wish them continued success through the rest of the season.”

Congratulations to these extraordinary students who distinguish UGA among the nation’s best. The successful beginning of the year puts them on track for their goal of winning a national championship. We wish them the best in their diligent preparations and tough competitions ahead. Strong faculty mentors and coaching in the department of communication studies has a established a continuity of excellence in our debate team and we continue to marvel at their accomplishments.

Varsity Debaters Go National

University of Mary Washington’s varsity debate team of Gabe Lewis ’19, left, and Parker Coon ’19 competed in the 72nd National Debate Tournament, held in March at Wichita State University in Kansas.

The national tournament featured 78 qualifying teams. It was the third time Coon had qualified and the second time for Lewis. While they didn’t reach the elimination rounds, they competed strongly, said Debate Coach Adrienne Brovero.

To qualify for the National Debate Tournament, Coon and Lewis turned in an impressive performance at the District VII National Debate Tournament, hosted on the Fredericksburg campus.

Coon and Lewis also reached the Sweet 16 of the American Debate Association national championship.


UK Debate Team Finishes Regular Season Strong With Double Victory

he University of Kentucky Debate Team housed in the College of Communication and Information swept two tournaments with impressive victories, placing first and second in two of the nation’s most reputable tournaments.

The successful team was split between three tournaments recently competing in simultaneous tournaments at the U.S. Naval Academy, Dartmouth Round Robin and Indiana University.

During a three-day competition in the Naval Academy Tournament, the duo of Amar Adam and Theodore Noparstack once again took first. The tournament featured nearly 100 teams from 16 states. The two champions defeated a nationally top-ranked team from Trinity University in a 2-1 decision in the final round. Earlier in the tournament, Kentucky won victories over a number of powerhouse competitors including Georgetown University, Dartmouth College and the University of Michigan.

The team’s second impressive performance came during the Dartmouth Round Robin tournament with a strong second place finish by competitors Dan Bannister and Anthony Trufanov. <<click the title above for the rest of the story>>

Mercer Debate Team Competes in ADA Fall Championship

Mercer University’s debate team competed in the American Debate Association (ADA) Fall Championship this past weekend at Wake Forest University.

The team of Cassie Malcolm, a junior English major, and Garrett Williams, a junior politics, philosophy and economics (PPE) major, reached the quarterfinals of the tournament, held Nov. 11-13 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Additionally, Malcolm was ranked as the 10th-place individual speaker.

“Even though this was their first tournament of the entire year, these two remarkable students made it to the quarterfinals at the ADA Fall Championship,” said Dr. Vasile Stanescu, director of debate at Mercer. “I continue to be impressed by the success of the Mercer education on the national stage.”

UM Policy Debate Makes a Strong Start at Mary Washington

This weekend UM policy debaters took a stand on healthcare at Mary Washington University outside DC. This event was the first Junior Varsity tournament for the squad, after having to miss an event at Georgia State University because of Hurricane Irma. Julia Lynch and Jiaying Li won three and lost three debates, nearly breaking into semifinals. Rene Betancourt and Daniel Gallego finished 2-4.

The debate motion for the tournament, which will be debated all year, is “The United States Federal Government should establish national health insurance in the United States.” This topic taps into a broader, ongoing debate about healthcare in America as politicians on the left try to offer a more comprehensive alternative to Obamacare. The debaters used academic sources to describe a variety of models for national health insurance, including those brought forward by single-payer healthcare advocates like Bernie Sanders, and explained why or why not a transition to such a program would be beneficial.

After the warm-up at Mary Washington University, the debaters are ready to bring home some trophies from Las Vegas Classic Debate Tournament Oct. 20-22. Watch out for Miami Hurricanes in Nevada!

Emory debate team wins national championship

Viveth Karthikeyan and Kristen Lowe, both seniors at Emory, bested Harvard University’s team to win the American Debate Association National Championship at George Mason University on March 13.

The duo was undefeated throughout the tournament as they challenged teams from Harvard University, Michigan State University, Wake Forest University, the University of Georgia and Missouri State University.

“This was not my first tournament win, but it was my first national championship win. It felt fantastic,” says Karthikeyan, a neuroscience major. “I’ve been debating since ninth grade and it’s really nice to see all the hard work and dedication I’ve put into debate pay off.”

Two members of the UT Dallas debate team received honors at the American Debate Association national tournament and finished in the top eight at the competition. During the tournament, held March 10-14 at Boston College, seniors Anthony Ogbuli and Jacob Loehr accumulated a record of 4-2 in the preliminary debates, beating teams from George Mason University, the University of Georgia, Emory University and Georgetown University.

Debate teams win Vanderbilt college debate tournament (UGA)

The Georgia Debate Union, which organizes and fields competitive policy debate teams at the University of Georgia, emerged victorious at the 2015 Vanderbilt intercollegiate debate tournament held in Nashville, Tennessee. The tournament featured over 50 teams from nearly 20 colleges and universities. Two teams representing the Georgia Debate Union “closed out” in finals, meaning they won each respective side of their elimination round brackets and tied for first place at the tournament. Teams from the same school typically do not debate each other.