Debate Faces International Competition

Members of the Harry C. Behler Debate Society judged and competed in a tournament at the Oxford Union International Intervarsity 2004 competition during the past week. Colgate was one of about 120 teams that attended the prestigious tournament. Colgate sent eight people to the event and had two teams competing. The trip to Oxford was the debate team’s third international competition this year – the other two taking place in Canada. The tournament was very diverse, with schools from countries, such as Israel and Netherlands, in attendance. The style of debate was British Parliamentary, which is modeled from the British Parliament – hence its name. It involves four two-person teams, with two teams acting as the government and the other teams acting as the opposition. Debate topics ranged from resolutions prohibiting pregnant women from smoking, to whether or not third world countries ought to comply with environmental standards. As the Oxford Union is viewed as the world’s leading debate society, Colgate’s team had much to learn form the experience.”I think they had good exposure to international debating,” Debate coach and coordinator Miranda Weigler said. “It is a very unique type of exposure to different university environments. For me, the point is not about how well they do; it’s much more about what they can learn.”The students on the team felt that the experience was beneficial.”This experience was a big step for the debate society,” President of the Harry C. Behler Debate Society Pat Kabat said. “Of course, travel builds team spirit and is a great deal of fun. More importantly, however, debate relies on the ability to view an issue from a number of perspectives. Competing internationally exposes a debater to his or her own basic assumptions by placing them directly against opponents who may have exactly the opposite approach.”The debate team has more international competitions on its agenda and will compete at the World Debating Championships in Malaysia, and in Cork, Ireland this spring. Weigler felt that the team’s experience in England would be good preparation for the upcoming World Debating Championships. “It’s the best practice that there is,” Weigler said. “A lot of teams that were at Oxford will be at Worlds,” The trip to England was not all work and no play. The debaters spent two days in London, where they viewed tourist attractions, such Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus and Covent Garden. They also toured Parliament with an actual member of Parliament as their guide, which, for them, was very interesting.Colgate’s debate team has already made much progress as a student organization this year. For example, its members are already hard at work preparing for the upcoming President’s Cup Debate Tournament, which is open to all students and offers a $1,000 in prizes. For Kabat, the recent trip to England is representative of this progress and how it affects the Colgate community as a whole. “Experiences like this help Colgate at large because the Debate Society intends to create a debate culture on campus similar to that in the U.K.,” Kabat said. “Bringing Colgate students to tournaments like this vastly expands their ability to put a global perspective on their debating, and weigh arguments on their own internal merits removed from the assumptions with which they have been raised. My hope is that these experiences will trickle down to the Colgate community through the perspectives that the debaters bring to their classes, during questions at lectures, and at events sponsored by the debate society.”