A forum for those who seek an outlet for public speaking, the UR Debate Union has been in existence for a little over ten years. The largest collegiate debate team in the United States, the UR team typically travels to approximately 18 tournaments throughout the debate season, which spans from September to April. The team competes in the Cross Examination Debate Association and this past year had a remarkable season, finishing fourth in the nation. The team is particularly proud to boast three All Americans, debate team President and Take Five scholar Karim Oussayef, junior Cedric Logan and Vice President and junior Liz Gaskell. Oussayef and Logan were named Academic All American, which is based upon merit, such as grade point average. Both students were nominated for the honor by Head Coach Sam Nelson. Gaskell received the honor of general All American. Oussayef, Logan, and Gaskell all debate at the varsity level. “I debate at the varsity level and am very privileged to be able to attend national as well as regional tournaments that help me grow as a debater. I was very excited to receive the All American award this year,” Gaskell said. A highlight of the 2003-2004 season is the success of the team of Logan and junior Steve D’Amico. Making UR debate history, the duo became the first team to qualify for the National Debate Tournament. Only the top 78 partnerships are invited to the NDT, so qualifying for the tournament is a monumental achievement. The competition at this level is fierce, as many of the students at NDT are outstanding high school debaters who were recruited by colleges. Logan and D’Amico, however, both began competing in policy debate in college, making their triumph even more impressive. Logan commented, “Debating at the NDT was a great experience, as we debated the top teams from around the nation, many of whom had been debating for 8 or more years.” Director of debate Ken Johnson said, “It’s difficult to explain, but Steve and Cedric really climbed a mountain to emerge on the national scene this year. We’re really excited because they have another season to show everybody what URSee DEBATE, Page 14 debate is about.” In addition, D’Amico won second speaker, another remarkable award given the difficult competition. The team debates a resolution that remains constant throughout the season, and this past year the resolution focused on United States-European relations. This topic is broad, and covers everything from trade to the war in Iraq. A great deal of preparation goes into each individual tournament-sometimes over 100 pages of research is necessary before a debate. During preparation, the students collect massive amounts of evidence about the topics that could potentially be argued based upon the resolution. The debaters often utilize online databases in their research. The team often focuses on both sides of the issues at hand, even if one finds his/herself in agreement with one particular view, which helps students develop strong argumentative skills.The team is comprised of approximately 30 students, and the group is diverse with members of all four class years as well as Take 5 scholars. There are three levels of competition-novice, junior varsity, and varsity, respectively. Novice debaters have absolutely no experience before joining the team, but play a very important role. In the CEDA league, novice wins are equally weighted in overall team score as junior varsity and varsity victories. Thus, the team is always welcoming new people who can compete at the novice level. Debaters can only remain at the novice level for one year, and then move on to the junior varsity level. Students who have competed at the high school level automatically enter the UR team at this level. The junior varsity level serves as a form of preparation for students who are working towards varsity, which is where the most advanced debaters compete. Varsity debaters typically spend approximately 25 hours per week, sometimes more, preparing for competitions that occur on the weekends. A winning record is not the only thing that UR debaters take from their experience on the team. “A lot of my views have changed,” said Oussayef. He continued, “Through debate I have been exposed to a wide variety of topics that I might have not been exposed to.” The research that the students engage in when preparing for tournaments often can lead to the development of other interests. Many of Oussayef’s teammates concur, stressing that while success is a primary focus, broadening one’s horizons and learning about different topics and policy issues is a significant means of personal growth. The team is extremely enthusiastic about their fourth place finish, and many give a large amount of credit to head coach Sam Nelson and Johnson. In addition, they also recognize the strong support of alumnus Marty Messenger, who has consistently provided a large amount of funding to the team. In addition to financial support, Messenger visits the team on occasion and offers good advice to the students. “We could not have been as successful as we have been this year without the financial support of Marty Messenger,” said D’Amico. “We are heavily indebted to him.” In light of their overwhelming success, the debate team is eagerly anticipating the 2004-2005 season. Two instrumental members of the team, Oussayef and senior JR Carter are graduating this year, and will be greatly missed. However, the team is extremely confident that the younger members can continue to persevere. “We have several promising freshmen, sophomores, and juniors who will fill Oussayef and Carter’s shoes next year,” said Gaskell. The team is open to every student, and no experience or tryouts are necessary. According to Johnson, the team has “always gotten its best debaters through serendipity-they just show up and decide to try debate.”



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