Colgate Debate Society Reaches Finals in Toronto Tournament

Two first-years in the Colgate Debate Society reached the final round of the Hart House IV Debate Tournament at the University of Toronto earlier this month, completing five rounds of debate over the span of two days.

Neither Josephine Debono nor Desiree Rigaud had prior debate experience before their success the weekend of Oct. 14, and they were surprised to learn of their achievements in Hart House IV.

“Honestly, we were really shocked when we found out,” Rigaud said. “And just the tournament itself was a really good experience. I felt like I met a lot of really incredible people from a bunch of different places.”

Rigaud and DeBono both joined the Debate Society because of their interest in politics and law.

“I’m interested in a career in politics and law, which the Debate Society is really great for because you learn a lot about how to argue, how to speak and how to do public speaking,” DeBono said. “You learn how to talk to people with different perspectives, so it’s also a really good way to make friends.”

The tournament hosted schools from across the U.S. and Canada, allowing the team to engage with various competitors. Debono credits their success to their ability to help each other as a team, and she credits their cooperation with their partner for the success of the team.

“I’m really grateful to have had [Rigaud] as my partner,” Debono said. “I think we worked really well together.”

Debate Society President, senior Cameron Patrick, described the goals of the organization.

“Our debate society looks to provide its members with skills in public speaking and debate, in addition to participating at a variety of British Parliamentary debate tournaments at many different locations,” Patrick said. 

Debate Society is a fully student-run organization, and senior Marisa Modugno, vice president of the Debate Society, leads practices in debate education and coaching.

Rigaud and DeBono are excited to continue debating and hope to expand on their roles in Debate Society.  

“I want to improve my skills as a debater and hopefully attend more tournaments because I did really like the experience of getting to mingle with people outside of the club,” Rigaud said. “Ultimately, I would like to play a larger role in this Debate Society as a whole, because I really like the community and like the family environment that it has created.”

DeBono also hopes to build on her role in the future.

“I’d also really love to have a bigger role in debate society as we get older through our years at Colgate because it’s such a wonderful community and I just hope that the debate society as a whole continues with that good energy,” DeBono said. 

Patrick was not in attendance at Hart House IV but expressed excitement about Rigaud and DeBono’s futures in debate.

I am incredibly proud of what [DeBono] and [Rigaud] accomplished at the Hart House IV and all they add to our debate society on a continuing basis,” Patrick said. “Being able to make it all the way to novice finals at their first collegiate tournament shows both an incredible amount of skill and their ability to optimize the resources we provide them in practice.”

Modugno shared this sentiment and commended everyone who participated, explaining that tournaments are a complex process. 

“I’m proud of everyone who attended,” Modugno said. “Tournaments are long days and it’s mentally a lot of work — you have 15 minutes to prepare to make a seven-minute speech, and each round is about an hour and 15 minutes so you have to be focused not only on the speech you’re getting ready to give but also how you’re going to respond to the other three teams.” 

Patrick is also proud of Debate Society as a whole, stressing two components that help the team succeed. 

“First, that we go above and beyond in striving to create a space that welcomes all students into the activity of British Parliamentary debate regardless of background, prior knowledge and skill level,” Patrick said. “Second, the work that goes into operating our debate society is performed by a group of folks who share our common vision.”

Patrick thanked their faculty advisor, Brittany Miller, and their student leadership from last year. 

“Their diligent work during an incredibly difficult time for the debate community, having to do tournaments online for the majority of that academic year, allowed us to remain in good standing and with an active membership base,” Patrick said. “We’re continuing to build on their hard work this year.”