The Bates Quimby Debate Council has reached new heights. Over winter break the team travelled to Berlin, Germany for the 33rd World Universities Debating Championship (WUDC) held at the Technische Universität Berlin. Over a week of competition, the Bates debate team performed strikingly well at the largest international debate tournament in the world.
“Bates A”, consisting of the team’s president and vice president, seniors Ben Smith and Catherine Djang respectively, had one of the best finishes in recent Bates College history. The pair advanced to the elimination round. The only other American teams to advance to the knockout stage were from Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Stanford. “[It was] a tremendous accomplishment and honor,” said Djang.
To say that “breaking” at worlds is a big deal would be a gross understatement. In a tournament that attracts 400 teams from around the world, advancing to the elimination phase is a prestigious and noteworthy accomplishment.
“The actual experience of debating in an elimination round was also exhilarating because the level of debate was so high and we had a crowded live audience,” said Djang.
In addition, recent Bates alumnus Colin Etnire ’12 was able to enjoy his former team’s success in Germany as well as achieve individual recognition from the tournament. Etnire attended the debate as an independent adjudicator and was chosen to be on a panel of judges for the Grand Final between the last four teams, a distinguished honor.
Rhetoric professor Jan Hovden, the team’s coach, and sophomore Taylor Blackburn also traveled to Berlin as judges. Each was selected as the head judge for various rounds in the tournament.
The team also sent a contingent of teams to the internationally recognized Oxford and Cambridge tournaments during the fall semester.
Djang and Smith, sophomore Matt Summers and senior Eric Devaux, along with juniors Emily Schwalbe and Stephanie Wesson were selected for the Oxford tournament. All three teams were very successful with each finishing in the top 25% in an internationally prestigious field.
Blackburn and senior Virginia Flatow along with sophomores Alex Daugherty and Ben Claeson attended the Cambridge tournament.
Yet despite the club’s high standards and the pressure of fierce international competition, the Bates Quimby Debate Council remains a close-knit group. Consistent with the college’s emphasis on inclusivity, the club welcomes any interested student regardless of his or her previous debate experience.
“It’s rare for a team to be so successful and at the same time so inclusive. Most of our peer institutions have team tryouts and cuts, but we accept all interested students and work on all levels of skill development. People who join do so out of a desire to participate in intellectually stimulating discussions, hone rhetorical abilities, and learn about important contemporary issues,” said Djang.
The debate team also had a successful first semester on the American Parliamentary debate circuit and in British Parliamentary debate tournaments. Blackburn and Summers finished fourth at the Harvard Debate Tournament, the largest tournament of the year.
At the University of Vermont tournament, Bates sent three teams to semifinals and two teams to the final round. Sophomore Jill Zook and junior Jack Stewart advanced to the semifinals. Daugherty and Claeson placed third overall and Schwalbe and Wesson finished second in a great team performance.
Bates sent two more teams to the elimination rounds at the Brandeis Intervarsity Tournament. Blackburn and Summers along with Smith and Djang each reached the semifinals.
The Bates Quimby Debate Council is a wonderful manifestation of the benefits that can come from promoting inclusivity – an esteemed value at Bates College since its founding in 1855 by abolitionists. The Bates debate club continues to be one of the most successful teams on campus. The team is ranked 14th in the country and 19th internationally.
The team will send six more debaters to Ireland this semester. Seniors Flatow and Kate Fetrow, juniors Vic Silwa and Stewart, and sophomores Zook and John Goodman will take the journey across the pond. Additionally, the team will send some its new debaters to Stanford in March.
Anxious to see the Bates debate team in action? Attend the 2013 American Parliamentary Debate Association Tournament, March 15th to March 16th, hosted by the Bates Quimby Debate Council. The team’s first-year debaters will also be in action this Sunday, January 20th in the annual novice tournament.