U. Debate Union climbs the ranks


Team surpasses Harvard, moves into third nationally


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Photo by Courtesy of the Rutgers University Debate Union |

The Rutgers University Debate Union clenched their third place national ranking after competing in tournaments at the University of Albany and Franklin & Marshall College.


The Rutgers University Debate Union now ranks third in the country — surpassing Harvard University, which currently ranks fifth.

RUDU won first place at a tournament at the University of Albany on Feb. 22 and placed third in the Franklin & Marshall College tournament the same weekend, leading to its current ranking.

Since the team’s rankings within the American Parliamentary Debate Association are dependent on a point system rather than direct competition, they were able to overcome Harvard without actually encountering them.

Storey Clayton, RUDU’s coach, said he was overjoyed when they passed Harvard.  

Since it is his fourth year at the University, he has trained with everyone on the current team at some point in the beginning of their career, he said.

“It’s satisfying to see that the [debaters’] hard work has paid off,” Clayton said.

Getting to third was far from easy, he said. Earning their third-place rank in the country took a yearlong effort.

“Actually passing [Harvard] is a cumulative process, but it takes a yearlong process,” Clayton said.

He said his biggest initial challenge was getting people to believe the University could be in the same list as schools such as Harvard, Princeton University and Johns Hopkins University. But the University now ranks higher than all of those universities.  

Ashley Novak, RUDU’s president, said she was also really proud of the debate team.

“Our team has worked incredibly hard,” said Novak, a School of Arts and Sciences junior. “We definitely deserved to overcome Harvard this year.”

The team encountered some challenges along the way, she said.

RUDU lost strong debaters in recent years and faced difficulty training the newer members. But she now believes her team stands exactly where they want to be, Novak said.

Rachel Moon, the public relations chair for RUDU, said she really enjoyed the publicity from the ranking. She is happy that they are improving the image of public institutions like the University.

Moon said public institutions have a certain negative stigma among debate teams, but RUDU proves that this should not be the case.

“Rutgers is made up of really intelligent people,” Moon said.

Jamie Nolan, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, said the others should not think a university’s public or Ivy League status determines its success.

“Others shouldn’t underestimate us just because we are public,” Nolan said.

Novak said Harvard’s lower ranking should not faze the team. The members on Harvard’s debate team focus more on their individual rankings.

The University, on the other hand, has the opposite mentality — they focus on the performance of the entire school.

Novak said the team is working toward a second place rank, but Brandeis University —who currently holds that position — is ahead of RUDU by a large margin.

According to the APDA website, Yale University is ranked first in the nation above Brandeis, while Johns Hopkins is ranked fourth below the University.

Clayton said he believes the team will finish the 2012-2013 season ranked third in the country, because they have a great number of points between them and the teams behind them.

RUDU will not only have bragging rights, but also will receive an award and recognition from the league, along with the other schools ranked in the top 10, he said.

Only six weeks remain before RUDU competes at the APDA National Championship. With seven members qualified for Nationals, more students than ever will represent the University, Clayton said.

Novak hopes more of RUDU’s debaters qualify for nationals. She expects her teammates to outdo last year’s performance.

Moon, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, said she feels confident about nationals.

“I have no worries that we’ll do well,” Moon said.

Clayton said winning nationals and becoming the national champions would be a huge accomplishment.

“Being in third, we’re not favored to win. But we do have a shot,” he said.


By Natalie Mieles

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