Debate Team to compete in Round Robin tournaments


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Photo by Roy Groething |

The Rutgers University Debate Team won the opportunity to compete in to two exclusive Round Robin tournaments this year, according to the Rutgers—Newark website. 

One invite came from the Annual Val A. Browning Round Robin tournament at Weber University in Ogden, Utah and the other from the Marie Hochmuth Round Robin at University of Pittsburgh.

Both competitions are open to only 16 debaters from across the country. This year, teams from Big Ten and Ivy League schools will be present, along with several other institutions, according to the website.

Round robin debates are unique in that they are invite-only, and require each team to debate eight other teams.

“Receiving two invitations to two round robin tournaments this year demonstrates that Rutgers University—Newark is competing at the top level of collegiate debate,” coach Chris Kozak said on the Rutgers—Newark website.

The Newark based team was awarded entrance into these competitions due its successes in 2015.

Notable victories in 2015 included a rank of first in the Baby Jo Memorial Debate Tournament.

Elijah Smith, a School of Public Affairs and Administration junior, achieved the National Debate Tournament championship title. Nicole Nave and Devane Murphy won championship honors at a national level. The pair also received top-20 speaker awards, according to the Rutgers-Newark website.

The invites mark a milestone for the team, which was founded five years ago.

The debate team debuted in 2009 under a partnership between the Office of the Chancellor and the School of Public Affairs and Administration, as well as the Newark Debate Academy.

Then in 2012, Chris Kozan, a School of Public Administration graduate student became the team’s coach, leading to its number one ranking in the Northeast.

In 2015, the team was allowed into the National Debate Tournament in Indiana, the nation’s most competitive tournament which came after five debate seasons, according to the article. 

It also hosted the annual coaches’ tournament, an event that provided high school and collegiate debaters the opportunity to debate in an egalitarian environment regardless of institution affiliation or status as a coach, administrator, high school, college debater or judge.

The School of Public Health Affairs and Administration hosted event was attended by nearly 50 people. It showcased various debate styles.

This year, the team hopes to display a strong showing in its two Round Robin Tournaments.

The debate team has reached new heights every season since its beginning.

“It's a tremendous sense of accomplishment that within two years we were ranked alongside schools like Harvard and Stanford,” Rutgers-Newark Debate Coach Kurt Shelton said on the Rutgers—Newark website.

The team’s northeastern division, in which it is highly ranked, includes schools such as Boston College, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth University, New York University and Princeton University.

The team’s victories demonstrated their “potential to become lifelong intellectual leaders in the public sphere,” and that the team would “honor our investments in their education many times over for many years,” Marc Holzer, founding dean of the School of Public Affairs and Administration, said on the Rutgers—Newark website

The team was “one of the greatest, but least widely known stories of student success at Rutgers University—Newark,” Chancellor Nancy Cantor said on the Rutgers—Newark website.

Many of the team’s members come from Newark’s Debate Academy, which is designed to introduce High School students in Newark to the debate medium. 

According to its website, The Newark Debate Academy builds intellect, confidence and ambition, and helps its students for their college admissions.

The team’s Newark roots make its members local heroes. In the coming year, the team hopes to continue its history of success. With the 2016 debate season in full swing, the Rutgers debate team hopes to place strongly once more.

“The debate team’s tradition of excellence demonstrates compellingly how profound the student talent pool is at RU—N — and with many of them having come from Newark, how profound our city’s talent pool truly is," said Cantor on the Rutgers—Newark website. "Our current team is burnishing that tradition and we couldn’t be more proud of them”


Irfan Shaik

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