The Hart House IV 2014

While the Policy contingent headed to West Point over Meliora Weekend, four debaters from the URDU’s Worlds squad and coach Nina Datlof headed over the border to Toronto for the Hart House IV at the University of Toronto. Topics were diverse and ranged from “This house would publicly disclose all salaries” to “THBT war journalists should be forced to reveal their sources in international criminal tribunals (including the International Criminal Court) trying cases of war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide.”

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The info slide from a round on youth sports academies

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The crowded GA room during the briefings for judges and debaters prior to the start of Round 1


Outside of rounds, highlights of the tournament included the annual black-tie banquet (which was not only rumored to have lobster bisque but did, in fact, serve lobster bisque), wandering Toronto and the beautiful University of Toronto campus as a team, and the URDU tradition of playing cards in between rounds.

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Katelyn, Chris, Sarah, and Nina play cards and study between registration and the start of the first round

The URDU's debaters (from left: Sarah, Miriam, Chris, and Katelyn) pose at the fancy banquet

The URDU’s debaters (from left: Sarah, Miriam, Chris, and Katelyn) pose at the fancy banquet

Although the URDU didn’t bring home any shiny trophies, the group had a lot of fun and got some great preparation for upcoming tournaments from the strong competition!

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Rutgers University Invitational 2014

Bleary-eyed and anxious as to what the day would bring, eight debaters piled into minivans and drove to Rutgers, New Jersey for the University of Rochester Debate Union’s policy debate season opener. Since Rutgers was the first policy tournament of the year, the ride was filled with students practicing their speeches, going over negative strategies, and taking the occasional power nap to keep themselves going (not to mention being entertained by the coaches’ interesting taste in music). Once in New Jersey, students put on their game faces and prepared to debate the many aspects of this year’s resolution: marijuana, prostitution, organ sales, online gambling, and physician-assisted suicide.

Rutgers map

After two days of intense debates and learning the many perspectives to the year’s resolution, the Rochester debaters left their mark. One of our novice teams, Nick and Abdul, cleared to elimination rounds as the 8th seed out of 40 team in the novice division and advanced to quarterfinals. Rochester’s second novice team of Junior & Kate went 3-3, as did our JV team of Ben and Anne. Tobi and Emoni also went 2-4 in the JV bracket. Additionally, Nick Heitsch took home 6th novice speaker out of the 80 novice debaters in the bracket.

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Anne and Ben prepare between rounds

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Kate, Junior, Brady, and Abdul prepare and relax between rounds

The strong performance was an excellent way to start the season and whetted the team’s appetite for further competition!


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Yale IV 2014

The first weekend in October, four teams traveled to Yale to compete against debaters from all over the US, Canada, and England.

Yale Campus

A shot of the Yale campus

There were several motions on education: “This house opposes the charter school system,” “This house believe that institutionalized art credentials are bad for art, and “This believes that universities and other stakeholders should primarily consider teaching ability rather than research outputs when awarding tenure and allocating academic funding” (of particular interest to us attending a research university that still claims focus on undergraduate education).

Yale GA

The GA room for the tournament

And as at any worlds tournament, there were political science motions: “This how will cooperate with any leader or regime to defeat non-state actors that systematically violate human rights” and “This house, and an emerging democracy, will suppress local/domestic organizations in favor of international media.” Most memorable was, “This house regrets online dating that judges on past dating experience (e.g. Lulu)”—none of us knew how Lulu worked prior to the round, and not all of us were pleased to learn about it afterwards.

Kasia waits eagerly for lunch to be served

Kasia waits eagerly for lunch to be served

URDU debaters Dan, Graeme, and Rachit pose for the camera during a rare moment of sunshine

URDU debaters Dan, Graeme, and Rachit pose for the camera during a rare moment of sunshine

Although none of the teams broke, and we were repeatedly running through pouring rain across an unknown campus, we all learned a lot. Highlights included meeting friends from other schools, finding Chipotle, and entertaining rounds against fellow URDU members!

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University of Vermont Huber Debates 2014

The University of Rochester Debate Union celebrated Halloween this year on the road up north to the Huber Debates in gorgeous Burlington, Vermont. Some of the more spirited members of the team decided to catch the bus in Halloween costumes. Notable costumes include Chris and Miriam’s decision to dress up as each other and Nina and Alex’s decision to dress up as Jimmy, Jr. and Tina from Bob’s Burgers. Over and above all the costume fun, this particular tournament was even more fun than the usual mix of fierce competition and team comraderie because it was the first tournament offering debates in both Policy and Worlds formats that the URDU has had the chance to go to this semster.

A shot of the UVM campus

The URDU had significant competitive success at UVM. Of the ten total teams (and eleven novice competitors!) that Rochester brought, three teams broke to elimination rounds. In novice Policy, Anna Li and Sarah Pisaniello broke to quarterfinals. In Worlds, Ben Frazer & Graeme McGuire broke to novice finals and Chris Perkins & Miriam Kohn reached open quarterfinals.  The URDU also took home a speaker award, as our own Bethany Gardner was named seventh speaker in novice policy.

Ben and Graeme pose with their Novice Finalist award

Chris and Miriam pose with their Open Quarterfinalist award

All told, the tournament was a wonderful way to wrap up the season for the Worlds squad and a great stepping stone for our Policy debaters to build momentum going into the last two Policy tournaments of the season at West Virginia University and Wake Forest.

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Bard College IV 2014

The University of Rochester Debate Union had an amazing start to the Fall 2014 season at the Bard College Invitational Debate Tournament 2014! A total of 10 Rochester teams debated a wide variety of motions including Scotland’s attempt at secession from the UK, boycotting the National Football League, a global carbon cap and trade system and much more.

Syed Reefat Aziz ’16 and Junior Ndlovu ’17 pose with their Quarterfinalist Award


Debaters Syed Reefat Aziz and Junior Ndlovu broke in the Varsity/Open Division as the 15th seed and emerged as quarterfinalists of the tournament. Two of our teams – Ben Frazer and Graeme McGuire, and Rachit Sabharwal and Riva Yeo – also finished as finalists in the Novice division. Ben Frazer also received the 4th best speaker award in the Novice division. All told, the weekend was a lot of fun and an excellent way to kick off the 2014-2015 season!

The whole team poses after the conclusion of rounds


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West Point Invitational 2014

Over Meliora Weekend, while the worlds squad headed up to the Hart House IV, the University of Rochester Debate Union’s policy debate squad traveled one partnership to the beautiful United States Military Academy at West Point for a highly competitive invitational. The tournament offered great views of the Hudson River and even better competition.

An aerial view of the West Point campus

The team of Nick Heitsch and Anne Cheng competed in the JV bracket with a fair amount of success, winning three of their preliminary rounds. They also were able get some really great feedback to carry on into the rest of the season and year. At the end of it all, the URDU’s contingent was able to eat a delicious sunday brunch in the famed West Point dining hall.

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This year’s North American Universities British Parliamentary Debating Championships, hosted by Hobart and William Smith Colleges, offered top-tier competition from all around the continent, as expected. Competitors came from as far afield as Willamette University (in Oregon), University of Toronto (in Ontario), Brown University (in Rhode Island), and Harvard University (in Massachusetts). Motions also covered a wide-range of topics ranging from abolishing spousal privilege to whether prisoners of war should be returned at the cessation of an armed conflict.

Chris, Katelyn, and Sarah hold a debate of their own prior to rounds starting on Saturday morning

The tournament was extremely well-run and also implemented various policies to better preserve equity among debaters. In fact, the tournament decided to use code names in place of school names in order to prevent judges from determining the outcome of rounds based on either conscious or subconscious bias regarding a particular school. The theme that the adjudication team chose was “under the sea,” so Rochester ended up having the team name “Lobster.” Another was incentivizing teams to bring female debaters, which meant that there were many more female debaters present than at the average BP tournament.

The students and coaches discuss a motion between rounds

Highlights from the weekend included the formal banquet (pictured below) and several debaters trying out original styles in their speeches. For example,  in round 2 (Motion: This house believes that authors should write only in their native language), Junior JS Ndlovu and Kate Zhang threw in a few Xhosa and Mandarin phrases, respectively, in their speeches to stress the advantages of using more commonly spoken languages for social discourse. Although Rochester didn’t take home any awards, all of the teams learned a great deal from the stiff competition & broad range of motions and also had a lot of fun.

The whole team poses at the formal banquet after the conclusion of preliminary rounds

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