SU hosts prestigious international collegiate debate tournament

Yuki Mizuma | Staff Photographer

Students from schools in the United States and Canada came to Syracuse University to debate in the 2013 North American Championship. Such schools include Harvard and Yale University.

More than 60 college debate teams from all across North America came to Syracuse University this past weekend for the 2013 North American Championship, a prestigious collegiate debate tournament.

The three-day tournament takes place every spring semester and alternates each year between host schools in the United States and Canada, said Samm Costello, a senior Russian language major at SU and director of the tournament.

The American Parliamentary Debate Association, in conjunction with the Canadian University Society for Intercollegiate Debate, collaborated to create a unique tournament featuring top debate teams from each country, Costello said.

“Sixty-six teams arrived here on Friday from schools throughout the Northeastern United States and Canada,” said Eric Brooks, a junior from Yale University. “Each team is composed of two students that compete against a team from another school.”

Participating universities are allowed to bring more than one team, Brooks said. The team that hosts the tournament is responsible for arranging the judging, but is not allowed to compete, according to tournament rules.

Because the tournament involves both American and Canadian schools, a hybrid-style of rules is used, said Ben Strom-Weber, an SU alumnus helping out for the weekend.

“APDA is a lot more technically-based and the speeches are slightly longer than the standard CUSID protocol,” said Sarah Margulies, a sophomore from Brandeis University. “CUSID places a lot of emphasis on rhetoric and oratory.”

Before debate rounds began, teams were given motions, or topics to argue, Margulies said. The teams were then informed of whether they would be arguing as either the pro-minded government or the opposition, she said.

For the first rounds, teams were paired randomly without any respect to seeding, Margulies said. After this round, teams are paired based on skill level in an NCAA Tournament-like bracket.

Every team was given six preliminary rounds Friday and Saturday, which include three arguments for the motion and three arguments against the motion, Strom-Weber said.

Teams hoped to make it to Sunday to participate in the final rounds, said Costello, the tournament director, but only 16 teams made the Sunday cut.

Harvard beat Hart House, a team from Canada, in the final round, she said.

“This is a very respected tournament,” said Margulies. “I’ve been debating for a couple years and it’s cool to have an opportunity like this to compete against top-quality teams from Canada and the United States.”

Costello said having the chance to host the tournament was a fantastic opportunity for the SU Debate Society.

“SU has a smaller debate society compared to some of the other schools in APDA and we don’t get to travel as much,” she said. “Many of the participating Ivy League schools have massive budgets and lots of experience. We are hoping this increases opportunities in the future and establishes a good rep for us.”


Planning for the tournament began back in August but ramped up as the tournament date neared, Costello said.


“We worked closely with the Syracuse Sheraton and were able to secure hotel rooms and a banquet location,” Costello said. “Wegmans helped us doing some catering, but the real hard workers are my teammates who made this all possible.”


SU has about 10 members on its team, but is always looking to recruit new candidates, she said.


Said Costello: “We’re a relatively new sort of a group and we’re always looking for new members. We try to encourage a positive atmosphere where you can choose your own pace and will.”



Top Stories