The Debate Union is having a banner year.
More than 20 students have racked up victories at venues like Columbia University, University of Miami, Cornell University and the Novice National Tournament held at Towson University.
There is one more tournament left this semester ? CEDA Nationals ? and head coach Sam Nelson said UR should be within the top 20 by the end of the academic year.
Out of about 300 collegiate teams throughout the nation, UR has ranked in the top 20 consecutively for the past four years.
?We were fortunate to be ranked No. 11 in the nation last year, and this year we hope to be higher,? Nelson said.
Who are these artisans of argumentation?
?I personally like the diversity of the team,? said senior and Debate Union president Carsten Hoppe. ?We have freshmen and seniors all from very different backgrounds ? several foreign countries ? working together. It?s a really inspiring mixture.?
Sophomore John Vermitsky began hitting the tournament scene after taking Nelson?s debate class last semester. At Novice Nationals, he placed second out of 108 participants competing for the title of best novice debater.
?We?re lucky to have such a dedicated group of kids on the team. To give up your weekends going to tournaments ? that?s a huge commitment,? Vermitsky said.
Sophomore Tom Marples calls his involvement with debate a ?calling.?
?I argued a lot at home and I yell at everybody, so debate comes naturally to me,? he said.
Marples and his partner sophomore Mark Entel reached the final four at Novice Nationals. In Miami, they, along with the team of Vermitsky and sophomore Ileana Mendez, had perfect tournaments and closed out the final round, becoming combined champions.
Debate sows other rewards beyond the fame and glamour of winning a tournament in Miami.
?Debate is the only place where you can learn about everything from AIDS in Africa to sentient robots,? assistant coach Katherine McClung said.
And let?s not forget the social benefits. ?When you spend eight hours in a van driving to a tournament, you?re forced to be friendly with one another,? Marples said.
Assistant coach Ken Johnson vouches for these points. ?Beyond the great success our team enjoyed this season, I hope we all grew as friends, academics and universal citizens. Debate taught me that all humans, animals, vegetables and minerals are essentially equal and interdependent. If these values were passed down, I am pleased.?
UR also has strong junior varsity and varsity debate programs. Juniors Amy Novak, Camber Warren,Christy Webster and Jessica Myers have won team and speaker awards at different tournaments.
Freshman Rajen Subramanian commented on the light side of debate.
?Some people think that debate is just an intellectual activity, but they don?t realize it?s fun as well,? he said.
Debate Union meetings take place Mondays and Thursdays at 7:45 p.m. in Morey 100.