The UR debate team has been ranked first in the nation at the end of the fall semester, beating out 230 colleges and universities from all over the country.

This first-place ranking comes from all three major debate organizations ? the Cross Examination Debate Association, the National Debate Tournament and the American Debate Association. This is the first time in the team’s history that it has been ranked first place.

“The most impressive thing to me is that five of these tournaments were won by debaters that started debating this year,” said Debate Union president and senior Amy Novak. “Our team is one of the only teams in the country that will train anyone to debate that wants to learn. Most debate teams only recruit and travel people who debated in high school. We only have two debaters out of almost 50 with high school experience.”

The team has won more first places this year than ever before in UR history. Freshmen Nafees Nuruddin and Cedric Logan won first place in the novice division at West Point. Junior John Vermitsky and senior Jessica Myers won first place in the junior varsity division in Vermont. Freshman Ilana Kaplan-Shaine and Vermitsky won first place in the junior varsity division and freshmen Zack Fisk and Steve D’Amico both won first place in the novice division in Binghamton.

The team also found success over winter break in Kansas City, where they competed in two tournaments. D’Amico and freshman Colleen Feeny won the novice division at the William Jewell Tournament and senior Mark Entel and junior Thomas Marples won the junior varsity division at the UMKC tournament. Junior Christy Webster was ranked ninth speaker in a varsity field of over 120 debaters at the UMKC tournament.

“Our team always stays as one unit, which is probably the greatest reason for our successes,” said junior Rajen Subramanian, “Evidence Czar” of the debate team, whose job is to make sure that the team’s evidence is filed in an effective manner for access at a moment’s notice.

“Our squad has these unbelievable novice debaters who debate, research evidence and stick together as a team to an extent which is beyond words. At most schools novices don’t research evidence, but on the UR debate team, several novices voluntarily research massive amounts of evidence,” he said.

The topic for the 2001-2002 debate season is “Resolved: The United States Federal Government should substantially increase federal control throughout Indian Country in one or more of the following areas: criminal justice, taxation, employment, resource management, child welfare, environmental protection, and gaming.”

At a tournament, students debate three to four rounds affirming the resolution and three to four rounds negating the resolution. This year’s topic leads to debates around issues such as federal government versus state government jurisdiction, the Indian Child Welfare Act, casinos, water rights, uranium mining and nuclear waste storage.

Novak said that she embraces this opportunity to learn about Native American issues, and enjoys the challenge of this broad topic because she often hears arguments that she didn’t anticipate. Subramanian said he welcomes the change to a domestic topic after two years of international topics.

This year the Novice and Junior Varsity National Championships will be held March first to third at Towson University in Maryland and the Varsity National Championships will be held at CSU Fullerton April 1 to 4.

Brandon can be reached at

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