September 23, 2019 | 90° F

Rutgers debate hosts multinational tournament, encourages discussion of diverse topics

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 At the tournament, members discussed a wide variety of subjects even when they were not debating, such as philosophy, religion and politics. The interaction between members at the tournament has brought them closer as a group. 

The Rutgers University Debate Union (RUDU) hosted the 2019 North American Debating Championship last weekend from Jan. 25 to 27, marking the first time the University has hosted this tournament.

The tournament attracted 78 teams of two from more than 20 schools throughout the United States and Canada, said tournament director Will Donnelly, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore and vice president of RUDU. It was held throughout Livingston campus and spanned from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon, according to the RUDU website. The team from Yale University went on to win the overall tournament against Stanford’s team.

Each year, the tournament changes location, alternating between the United States and Canada, Donnelly said. Last year, the University of Toronto hosted the North American Debating Championship. In the past, it has been hosted by colleges such as Johns Hopkins University, Cornell University and McGill University.

Executive board members of RUDU, along with other team members and alumni, judged rounds at the North American Debating Championship. Donnelly said the tournament is crucial to RUDU’s funding.

“The main source of our funding is tournaments,” he said. “The (North American Debating Championship) will probably fund us for another year.”

At most tournaments, Donnelly said, teams decide their own topics prior to the tournament. The North American Debating Championship, though, comes with predetermined topics that are announced just 15 minutes before each round. 

These topics are determined by a group of debate alumni known as the Adjudication Core and can generally be about anything. Topics span from the movie "Shrek" to the Italian budget deficit, said Rajul Bothra, School of Arts and Sciences junior and treasurer of RUDU.

Although this is Rutgers’ first time hosting the North American Debating Championship, RUDU hosts at least one tournament annually within its league, the American Parliamentary Debate Association (APDA).

“Rutgers hosts an intercollegiate debate tournament every year, and it’s usually one of the largest in our league,” said Bothra. 

RUDU has a strong history of debate and is highly ranked in its league, said Bothra. For the 2017 to 2018 season, Rutgers University was ranked ninth for College of the Year in the APDA, and during the 2016 to 2017 season it was ranked first for teams, she said.

“It makes me (ask) a lot of second-level questions that you wouldn’t think about normally,” Bothra said. “It definitely made me a better thinker.”

Sasha Chuprakova, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year and novice debater, said she has debated topics from mandated IQ tests to whether religion worsens the world. The unpredictability of rounds has given many members valuable skills.

“It definitely makes you think on your feet,” Chuprakova said. “That’s an important skill to have.”

Even when members are not debating, they are still discussing a wide variety of subjects. Members of RUDU and debaters from other colleges discuss topics such as philosophy, religion and politics, Bothra said. The depth of interaction between members has brought the team together. 

“I like being in a group where, when I’m interacting with people, I’m learning,” she said. “That’s something that happens in debate that I don’t think I get everywhere.”

Meha Aggarwal

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