Debate Union prepares for national competition


The Rutgers University Debate Union (RUDU) is readying this weekend for its final debate tournament of the year at the National Debate Tournament at West Point Academy, where it's sending four teams to compete.

RUDU prepared with practices and drills for the tournament on April 23rd and 24th, and will face teams from colleges across the country, said Storey Clayton, the team's debate coach.

"We're going over the cases we run and the cases other teams might run," he said. "Normally, the kids just debate [with] each other, but I'm going to be getting involved in some of the practice rounds so that they have the best possible competition to prepare them."

The team met every day this week leading up to nationals instead of their normal two times a week, Clayton said.

"We have been meeting for about four hours a day and I'm meeting separately with each team," he said. "I am meeting individually with each of them to make sure they are prepared on their cases, and then we're meeting as a group at night to go over [specific] cases."

Chris Bergman, tournament director for RUDU, said knowing what the competition is like ahead of time will play to his team's advantage at nationals.

"We need to prepare for other teams that we know are going to nationals," said Bergman, a School of Engineering sophomore. "We know how they run and we know what they have and how we would respond to their cases."

But Bergman said having the cases prepared is just as important for success at the competition.

"We also need to prepare our own cases, so we need to make sure they're strong enough to beat any team that we [face]," he said.

RUDU is ranked third in the nation because of the number of teams that qualified for nationals, Bergman said. It is tied with the College of William and Mary for third place, with Yale University in second and Harvard College in first.

"No other school besides Harvard, Yale and William and Mary can send as many teams that we can, and that reflects our success throughout the year," he said. "We've been one of the most dominant teams on the [debate] circuit right now."

The club ranks fifth and boasts the seventh best team in the nation, said Bergman, who attributes RUDU's success to their coach.

"Clayton deserves a huge support for everything he has done for this team," he said. "Just last year, we had a grand total of eight points for the school for the course of the entire year. "This year, we have 219 points. That one-year difference is because of him."

Bhargavi Sriram, an RUDU member, thinks the closeness between the members of the union is helpful on the debate circuit.

"Our team is very bonded compared to [other teams] on the [debate] circuit," said Sriram, a Rutgers Business School sophomore. "We're helping each other prepare, we practice against each other and we tell each other our cases. We find any flaw that we can find with each other's cases."

Clayton said the team is preparing ahead of time to maintain confidence at the competition.

"We're going to try to stay pretty loose," he said. "There's a lot of down time between rounds and the national tournament. A lot of the time, teams get anxious and take a lot of time wasting their energy, so we're going to try to stay loose and have fun."

Bergman said he values the debate skills he developed from RUDU because they have practical applications.

"Debate is a worthwhile activity because we all end up learning how to think on our feet, how to present in a persuasive manner and how to be comfortable speaking in front of crowds or in public," he said. "Prepping for nationals shows our dedication to our team."


Gregory Forest

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