Colgate Debate Team Wins Tournament in Novice Division

Sophomore Julieanne Montaquila and first-year Aziz Ur Rehman Zafar, won the Novice Division of the 2019 Huber Debates. The tournament was hosted by the Lawrence Debate Society at the University of Vermont (UVM) in Burlington, Vermont on November 2 and 3.

Novice Debate Champions Montaquila and Zafar ranked first above the other 25 teams, each comprised of two students. According to Colgate Debate Secretary junior Jaanvi Sachdeva, a novice is a debater who is in their first year of collegiate debate.

“All first-years are novices by default, and new members who join the activity in later class years also qualify as novices for their first year of debate. Debate tournaments give special status to novices, with an exclusive final bracket. A varsity member is any debater beyond that one year period, and these members hold more experience,” Sachdeva said.

Sachdeva said the win was a new accomplishment for Colgate’s team. 

“When Aziz and Julieanne won novice finals, it was definitely a big deal for Colgate Debate. In recent years, although we have had debaters break to final rounds, we have not had a team win an entire division. We were all so excited and proud of them,” Sachdeva said.

According to Sachdeva, the win marks the success of the team’s recent focus on skill development, particularly for its new members.

“Our team has been focusing more on novice training and skills development the past few semesters, and the fact that all our novices have been progressing each tournament is amazing to see. A lot of other schools have debate coaches, and we don’t, so we are constantly working on peer education and trying to figure out how we can support each other to become better debaters,” Sachdeva said.

All but one of the tournament’s 12 attendees are first-year members of the Colgate team. Team President junior Aaron Tanaka shared his excitement about seeing hard work and training pay off for the novice teams.

“Even though it’s been half a semester, they’ve been putting in a lot of practice and definitely showed it at UVM. This is the first tournament win we’ve had since I’ve been at Colgate and it is really exciting,” Tanaka said.

Champions Montaquila and Zafar debated on a variety of political and pop culture topics, including the banning of Donald Trump from Twitter, Jay-Z partnering with the National Football League (NFL) and a new Constitutional Convention. 

Montaquila expressed her appreciation for the creativity of the debate motions, as well as the larger role that debate as a whole plays within society.

“You’re able to talk about really tense or hard topics in a very serious, engaged, and intellectual way and then, after that, you leave the room, you finish the debate, and you shake hands with everyone else; you laugh and you talk to them and you have fun. I think you don’t get that opportunity a lot in the real world right now because everything’s so polarized,” Montaquila said.

Sachdeva said she looks forward to upcoming opportunities for Colgate debate and the future success of its members. 

“Coming up this semester, members of our debate team will be attending a tournament at the University of Cambridge in the UK and a tournament at Assumption University in Bangkok, Thailand,” Sachdeva said. “We’re excited to see how our debaters will do at these tournaments.”