The 2019 Brad Smith Debate Tournament, organized by the UR Debate Union, concluded on Sunday, Jan. 27, with Ravi Simon from Brandeis University and Sandy Greenberg from Brown University emerging victorious.
The two-day long tournament consisted of two debating formats: British Parliamentary (BP) and Policy. The BP section attracted 45 teams from 14 institutions, including Cornell, Vanderbilt, and Brown.
Cornell’s Marina Parlato had only good things to say about the tournament and the UR debaters. “I like some of the [UR] people that I’ve already done Spanish debates with […] it’s cool to see them working as coordinators,” Parlato said, adding “We got donuts, which is better than most tournaments.”
Brad Smith, the tournament’s namesake, attended with his wife, Jane. They were both instrumental to the Union’s development: Brad helped build the Debate Union’s research capacity and assisted with the Introduction to Debate courses at UR for nearly 20 years, while Jane has been involved with the team’s logistics for the past 10 years.
Every team took part in five hour-long rounds of non-stop debate on Saturday, then another hour on Sunday morning. Afterward, the best 16 teams would “break,” meaning advance to the quarterfinals. An award session was held before the quarterfinals on Sunday, recognizing excellent contestants from different categories — Novice (first-time debaters), and ESL (English as a second language), for example.
Preparation for this tournament took months. The planners’ emphasis was mostly on the motions, which are the topics of each round. A team of Chief Adjudicators (CAs) and Deputy Chief Adjudicators (DCAs) assembled to come up with the motions. The CAs and DCAs were also responsible for judging the rounds and briefing the tournament before it started. The motions were kept strictly confidential among the CAs, DCAs, and Brady Fletcher, the director of UR’s Debate Program.
“[The CAs] have to be able to predict what kinds of debate [are] going to happen — you don’t want to have a topic that is really one-sided,” Fletcher said. He noted that among the CAs, “discussions can become very intense and can even be debates themselves.”
The resolution of the debate tournament adds another notch to the Union’s figurative belt, following their success at this year’s World Universities Debating Championship in South Africa. At the championship, sophomore and BP Captain Warish Orko, along with junior and Debate Union President Niki Linganur, fought their way to the top 8 percent of over 400 teams from more than 250 elite institutions around the world.
Orko spoke highly of his experience at the championship. “I witnessed very, very good sportsmanship in debating,” he said, smiling. “I think the maturity with which people approached other people’s success was refreshing and inspiring.”
Orko also spoke of the impact of debate beyond the tournament realm. “When you go home from a debate tournament, people often ask you […] ‘What were you discussing?’” he said. “That goes from the debate room to your dining room, after the tournament. You move the conversation with you.”