King's Debate Society Hosts First Tournament
Since Matthias Clock and Pam Dodge created KDS, King’s debaters have held scrimmages and other small matches at the college. Last year, KDS began to consider and then push for hosting a tournament at King’s, but there were many logistical questions to address.
Last summer, KDS President Josiah Peterson (’12) wrote a proposal. After searching for a date, Jeremy Cerone (’13) led a team of about 30 volunteers to make the tournament happen.
“The reasons for The Empire Debates were to build relationships, give back to the region, set the tone of regional debates, contribute to our vision and build student leadership,” Peterson said.
“KDS, through the Empire Debates, shows what dedicated people can do," Alfred Snider, better known as “Tuna” by debaters and the University of Vermont coach director, said. "I’m very pleased to see the college recognize their achievement. I feel the best is to come. They’re a tremendous addition to the debate family."
The Empire Debates welcomed 48 teams from 12 schools. The schools included Yale, Cornell, St. John’s, University of Vermont, Patrick Henry, Grove City, Bard, Rochester, Brandeis, Adelphi and Claremont. Many of these schools have not even started classes yet but sent teams anyway.
“The Empire Debates benefits KDS," Sam Natale, chief adjudicator and renowned debater, said. "It helps organize the community of debaters. KDS is making a transition from the new kid on the block to a leader in New York City, attracting other schools."
The debates happened in the student lounge, the lower lobby, the Founder's Room on the fifteenth floor and the 330 building. Debaters participated in British Parliamentary debate, in which four teams debate a motion. KDS partnered many of their experienced debaters with novices in order to train the amateurs.
Two teams represent the government position, and the other two represent the opposition to the motion. Judges award points for the quality, analysis and relevance of arguments.
“It took a while for King’s to have the talent to present their ideas," Natale said. "Thanks to their talent, their views are being accepted, especially by winning. King’s is also receptive to other point of views besides John Locke."
Students debated motions ranging from homeschooling to sex offender registries to the election of Ron Paul. The teams met between rounds to discuss how to improve their arguments. Some even debated religion and the effects of Christianity on society.
“While [King's] is a Christian school, KDS is able to adopt worldviews to the motion," Snider said. "They bring a lot of eloquence and passion. They’re good at figuring out what they can support in the motion."
This tournament is but one example of KDS’s goal to build relationships with other schools. Snider expressed how much he enjoys spending time with KDS, especially at the most recent World Universities Debating Championship in Manila, Philippines. Peterson said that it is important for Christians to be able to communicate clearly and respectfully.
“King’s is able to bring up different points of view in the rounds,” Nipun Mahajan, a debater from St. John’s, said.
“They’re very good at teaching about their values," Kamya Chandra, a debater from St. John’s said. "We’ve all grown really close."
After six rounds of debate, teams’ scores were tabulated. King’s did not break into the semi-final rounds, but the team of John Sailer (’15) and Rachelle DeJong (‘13) broke into the novice final. The motion they faced was that “This House would make no step to stop Internet piracy.” The team represented the closing opposition in defense of stopping Internet piracy. They took second place in the round.
“Debate is about perceiving nuances of arguments and finding smaller pieces of people’s arguments," DeJong said. "I never expected this. It was an honor and privilege to debate."
“This has been very beneficial for the Debate Society. It’s been a great experience for me and to watch Rachelle do so well during her first time in a debate tournament,” Sailer said.
The final round occurred in the City Room. The motion said that “This House supports a future Justice administration to prosecute President Barack Obama for illegal drone strikes.” The last four teams were from Yale, St. John’s and Brandeis. Victory went to St. John’s debate team, Nipun Mahajan and Kamya Chandra, representing the closing opposition.
Overall, King’s succeeded in presenting its mission to fellow debate teams.
“It’s given KDS an opportunity to make the school more visible,” Peterson said.
“This proves that a Christian school can host a tournament and offer a platform to advocate and discern truth on the basis of argumentation and aggressive reasoning,” Sailer said.
Peterson is considering hosting the debates again next year, musing over potential names for the competition.
“We could call next year's The Empire Strikes Back and the following The Return of the King’s,” Peterson said.