While most Indiana students enjoyed their winter break away from their academic responsibilities, the IU debate team was hard at work debating the intricacies of US climate change policies. Ten Indiana undergraduates competed, with coaching assistance from two SPEA graduate students, at the University of Southern California and CSU Fullerton tournaments from Jan 2nd - 9th. Collectively the IU debate team defeated notable teams from Harvard, Georgetown, Kentucky, Wake, Berkeley and others. The major achievement and a program first came late Sunday night as the Hoosier debaters qualified two teams to elimination debates at the CSU Fullerton tournament. To qualify, a team, comprised of two debaters, must finish in the top thirty-two in the field with a winning preliminary record. These top teams compete in a single elimination bracket.
Senior-Sophomore team Bee Smale (SPEA) and Harry Aaronson (College-Jewish Studies), finished the preliminary debates with a remarkable win over a competitive Harvard team. As the 24th seed, they were scheduled to compete against Kentucky, a team they had previously bested in round 1 of the preliminary debates. Locked affirmative, Bee and Harry were slated to defend a criticism of status quo US climate change policy. Elimination debates are unique by expanding the number of judges from one to three to decide the winner of the debates. With only three hours to make a decision, the Hoosier arguments extended the judges to decision time with a narrow loss on a 2 to 1 decision.
Seniors Ari Hoffman (SPEA) and Kegan Ferguson (SPEA-Cox Scholar) went into the sixth and last preliminary debate in a must win situation against a competitive George Mason team. Having narrowly missed qualifying for elimination debates at the USC tournament, Ari and Kegan had to do more than just win the last round. A winning record of three wins in preliminary debates is only enough to become eligible to debate in the bracket. With 51 teams achieving 3 or more wins at the Fullerton tournament and a limit of thirty-two slots, debaters must win AND achieve high speaker point rankings to outpace the field. Ari and Kegan made quality arguments with style, elevating them into the 31st seed against one of the nation’s best teams from Georgetown University. While the decision reflects a unanimous 3-0 against the Hoosier debaters, judges noted that the round was an incredibly close debate.
While wins bring trophies and accolades, the debate community is more than just a competition. Academic communities are built on students who are passionate about their studies, who commit and improve the activity around them. Out of 200 students competing over the weekend, Junior Nicholas Gallina (Informatics & Kelley) was awarded the “Best of Forensics” Award for his incredible work ethic, team dedication, and academic achievements. The award is the community recognizing Nick as a symbol of what all debaters should strive to become, an MVP of the community.
IU debate will take the next few weeks off as we prepare to host the 6th annual college Hoosier Invitational Tournament at the end of January.