Debate Society confident after first win of the year over McGill

On Friday, November 6, 2015, 12 members of the George E. Murray Debate Society traveled north with the intent of gaining international prestige for the campus club as they faced off against McGill’s Debating Union. The event on November 7 marked the Debate Society’s first competition of the year.

Led by Co-Presidents Jacob Kandel ’16 and Ryan Hoffman ’16, the Colby contingent was a mix of both upperclassman and a few outstanding first year debaters. “We’ve been working on recruiting new members this semester, as we’re trying to become a bigger presence on campus and within the APDA [American Parliamentary Debate Association],” said Kandel.

When asked about the impetus behind the trip, Hoffman said, “We’re trying to expand the activities and prestige of the George E. Murray Debate Society by increasing membership and becoming more active in competitions.” Kandel added, “The trip was really last minute. We wanted to go to Montreal, while also practicing against a real team. I messaged the president of the Debating Union on Wednesday and we started packing our bags on Thursday.”

Upon arriving in Montreal, the team spent the afternoon exploring the Old Port, visiting Notre-Dame Basilica, and eating a large dinner in preparation for the challenging debate they faced the next day.

At McGill, six members of the Debate Society went up against six McGill debaters, while members of each school judged the rounds. The first debaters to compete were also some of the newest members: Emily Dunn ’19 and Ian Mansfield ’19. The resolution was: “The media should not be allowed to report on the mental illnesses of accused criminals.” With Mansfield as Prime Minister and Dunn as the Member of the Government, the newcomers had an impressive first appearance. While they were tripped up in the beginning by their opponent’s use of points of information—which are not used during Colby practices—both debaters recovered and gave impassioned performances, leading to a victorious climax.

With Colby in the lead, the event moved on to its second and third rounds. With Kandel and Hoffman on one team and Casey Romeo ’16 and Tassin Braverman ’18 on the other, both groups argued for the resolution: “Soldiers should be allowed to opt out of missions and campaigns for reasons of conscience.” In the debate led by the co-presidents, both debaters gave clear and thoughtful arguments. However, the points of information proved disruptive for Kandel on several occasions, causing him to lose his train of thought. In a very close decision, the judges proclaimed McGill the winner.

The fate of the competition thus lay with Romeo and Braverman. While the points of information were similarly challenging, both debaters rose to the occasion and argued well throughout in measured, confident tones. After a short discussion, the judges sided with Colby, handing them the tournament.

The win was a much-needed boost of confidence for the Debate Society, as well as a great learning experience for veteran and rookie debaters alike. Regarding the results, Kandel said, “We’re really excited about the outcome, and it has inspired us to make some changes in order to help us further our skills and perform better on a national level. Likewise, we’ve made lasting connections with McGill and as a result, we’ve been invited back to their winter carnival in January.” He added, “We are the only American university invited to this Canadian Parliamentary Debate Tournament.”

The debate in Montreal also marks a shift in the Society’s scope. The last tournament the Debate Society was present for happened in 2013, where they narrowly lost to Trinity College in Dublin. As four members of the Society prepare for a tournament in Bangkok, Thailand over JanPlan, Kandel and Hoffman are instituting major changes to prepare the Society for harder competitions. “We want to make Colby Debate the best it can be,” said Kandel. In the coming years, Kandel and Hoffman hope to see the Society flourish and become a ranked school in the APDA. Kandel surmised, “We want to make Colby and George E. Murray proud.”

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