Yale University proved victorious at this year’s United States Universities British Parliamentary National Debate Championship hosted by the University of La Verne April 12-14.
After a fierce final debate Sunday in Morgan Auditorium against finalists from Carroll College, Loyola Marymount University and Stanford University, Yale’s team of Ben Kornfeld and Samuel Ward-Packard were ultimately named the champions out of 160 teams from more than 40 schools from across the nation and around the world.
“This is awesome,” Kornfeld said. “There are ton of great teams here and we were really fortunate to make it to this round. (We) acquit ourselves well enough that the panel thought we won the round, but it’s really exciting.”
This is ULV’s first time hosting a national tournament. This year also marks the debate team’s 101st anniversary.
ULV freshman Gia Karpouzis and sophomore Melanie Nadon made it to the semifinals.
Additionally, Karpouzis was eighth out of the top 10 speakers of the competition.
Senior Carl Decker and senior Sam French competed all the way up to the quarterfinals.
During the first two days of the tournament, six preliminary rounds were held all over campus.
Before each round, teams gathered in the Athletics Pavilion to find out the position they would be arguing, the room they were in and most importantly, the motion they would be debating.
For British Parliamentary style debate, each pair from a school debate team would make up a faction.
Two of the factions are in support of the motion and the other two oppose it.
Each member of the four factions have roles either as prime minister, deputy prime minister, member for the government, government whip, leader of opposition, deputy leader of opposition, member of the opposition or opposition whip.
In each round, the debaters had different roles that were chosen at random.
The motions ranged from topics such as Anglicization, legitimization of female vigilantes’ violence, whether or not the United States should provide nuclear weapons to South Korea.
Debaters passionately spoke for their side, while dismissing any personal beliefs that might have conflicted with the position they had to defend.
“In order to win, you have to embody whatever the side is that you’re representing,” said Sterling Higa, a debater at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
“One of the things debate helps people do is get rid of dogma. Debate forces you because you have to consider different viewpoints.”
Judges from all over the world sat in on the rounds and ranked each team from one to four.
“I think the right way (to judge) is you listen carefully, you don’t actively try to rule out the way a speaker is speaking from,” said judge Shengwu Li from Stanford University.
“Ultimately, the question is, ‘Who’s persuasive?’ Who said things that sound reasonable and persuade you that their side is true, and the words they choose are obviously an integral part of that.”
Technical problems with the initial tabulation software, which compiles all of the data from rankings and speaker scores, caused a delayed after the first round.
Chief Adjudicator Josh Martin and Deputy Chief Adjudicator Mary Nugent ended up taking over the tab team.
“It’s really difficult to run our side of things and tab at the same time,” Martin said.
“It turned out that the things (the original tab team) told us they could do, they weren’t able to do,” he said.
Martin and Nugent decided to go with the “trite and true method” of tabulating by switching to Tournament, tabbing software used for British Parliamentary style debate.
Once the debates were over for the day, ULV planned many outside events such as a public speaking competition and a break party back at the Sheraton Hotel.
“I went to the national tournament last year at Willamette and (La Verne’s) a lot more fun,” said Mt. Hood Community College debater Stephanie Saracco.
Cameron Hickert, a debater from the University of Denver, enjoyed his time in Southern California.
“The accommodations have been absolutely incredible. (ULV) set up nice dinners, transportation, and the Sheraton’s awesome,” Hickert said.
“It was an absolutely great tournament,” he said.
Some members of ULV’s debate team opted to volunteer at the tournament instead of competing.
Many of the volunteers were in charge of running ballots, setting up and taking down, and ensuring that debaters found their correct rooms.
“This is the culmination of a lot of hard work by a group of people on campus who work as hard, if not, harder than any other student organization,” said Championship Director and debate coach John Patrick.
“Our debaters astound me everyday with what they’re willing to do. We couldn’t have done it without them.”
At the awards ceremony Sunday night, the nationals committee expressed its gratitude for Director of Forensics Rob Ruiz, whose dream was to run a world-class debate at ULV.
After a presentation during the coaches’ forum at last year’s nationals in Willamette University in Salem, Ore., ULV hosting was a done deal when it brought on former World Debate Council Chair and speech communications department chair Ian Lising.
“Rob, you are simultaneously one of my greatest students, as one of my greatest teachers,” Lising said at the awards ceremony.
“Approximately 4,291,283 words were spoken this week. Now, only four words really matter: thank you, Rob Ruiz,” he said.
“I don’t do this for myself,” Ruiz said.
“I do this for the students who come to this university, and that’s my mantra – students first.”
Kristina Bugante can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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