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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