The IU debate program is running on all cylinders with sixteen Hoosier undergraduates and three graduate students logging countless hours of practice debates, research hours, and travel time since they arrived on campus a week before the fall semester began. Weekends for our Hoosier debaters are not a time for relaxation. They are opportunities to engage in heated competitive debates over this year’s controversy about whether the US should increase its outer space cooperation with Russia and China.
The IU debaters are nearly halfway through their season after attending four tournaments since mid-September. Results in all three divisions have been mixed, but program morale and growth are holding steady as we prepare for the end of the semester tournament held at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, NC.
On Monday, the IU debate program returned from Harvard University, largely considered one of the most difficult open division tournaments of the season, with lots of lessons learned, quality experiences, a few critical wins over rivals and no hardware. Director of Debate Brian DeLong states, “This season is distinct from previous years. We have students with limited high school debate experience who are now doing a great job in leading our program. Our expectations for team members is less about trophies gained and more about students reaching their maximum potential before graduation. We are meeting our goals as a program.”
The team has continued its annual success in both junior varsity and novice divisions. Sophomores Payton Holland and Janet Oluwayomi walked away from the Wayne State Debate tournament in mid-October with top speaker awards and the championship trophy in the junior varsity division, beating the University of Nevada Las Vegas in finals. Our novice teams also closed out finals of the tournament.
In the open division, the 2019-2020 season is a new situation for IU debate’s development. Last year’s seniors averaged a top-17 national ranking. These senior students joined the program as freshmen with extensive high school debate experience. With their graduation a vacuum of leadership needed to be filled by team members who started competitive debate in college. Victoria Lincourt, West Lafayette graduate, this year’s only senior and the Debate Team President, has stepped in to lead the program.
Similar to the nameless jerseys of Hoosier athletic teams, Victoria emphasizes what it is like to be a team member first, “I'm proud every time I get up to debate for IU. We're a part of a team with a great reputation as hard workers and debate excellence, and traveling to tournaments like Harvard cements the feeling that we're continuing something important. On a personal level, every debate round makes me a better student. I'm continuing the process of in-depth research and on-the-fly critical thinking. It's pushed me to be a better leader in my classes and student organizations.”
The four Indiana debaters who travelled to Harvard, Victoria, Mehul Gupta, Payton Holland, and Drew Bagan, all started as novices on the program. This makes IU relatively unique to the other schools that the program competed against at Harvard. Most teams at the tournament had extensive high school experience. Victoria reflected on what it means to debate in open, “Coming to the end of my time on the team has felt like a victory because it represents three years of a ton of effort, time, and practice. Starting as a novice made being a varsity member seem impossible, so being competitive in varsity rounds now shows me how far I've come since I first walked into a team meeting with no knowledge of how policy debate happens.”
With each tournament, IU debate seeks to increase its winning percentage and competitiveness. After the fall semester IU will start a heavy 2020 spring semester travel schedule in January with tournaments at Georgetown, Indiana University’s home tournament, and Navy.