UR’s debate team met with success at the East Region Championships at Marist University in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., this weekend.

The team is still ranked first in the American Debate Association rankings, but has fallen a few points behind Northwestern in the National Debate Tournament rankings. “It will be a close race to the finish,” senior and Debate Union President Amy Novak said.

Novak was named East Region Debater of the Year while Ken Johnson was named Coach of the Year.

“I was thrilled to be named East Region Debater of the Year,” Novak said. “To be recognized by such a wonderful, close-knit region was a huge honor.”

Johnson said he was honored to be chosen as Coach of the Year. “I was shocked when I was picked because I’m kind of a young coach and I thought others might be more deserving, but it does feel good,” he said.

The varsity team of Christy Webster and John Vermitsky qualified to be first alternates to the National Debate Tournament. Only the top partnerships in the country get invited to attend this elite tournament.

Partners Karim Ousef and Nafis Nruddin along with Steve D’Amico and Liz Gaskell placed first and second, closing out the novice division of the tournament.

This success comes after an application for additional funding to the Students’ Association Appropriations Committee that will allow the team to complete their season.

In response to these funding issues, Senior and Debate Union Business Manager Jessica Myers said, “We have implemented austerity measures, such as charging partial entry fee amounts to individual debaters and obtaining judging for free. Judges are normally paid $200 per tournament. It is costing our team members several hundred dollars of their own money to finish out the season.”

Alumni have helped to alleviate the problem by donating financial resources, as well as volunteering their time as judges for the team.

The team said they have noticed the effects of these new budget measures. According to Myers, only a limited number of the team traveled this weekend due to the financial strain. Some debaters worked more hours to pay several hundred dollars out-of-pocket, which cut into schoolwork and preparation for the tournament.

Since SAAC and Senate are unwilling to furnish the team with supplementary funds on an as-needed basis, Myers says that “we may be forced to ask for more money than we would otherwise project for a standard year” in order to avoid financial issues next year.

Despite these setbacks, Novak still thinks that this will be “the most successful year in UR debate’s history” adding, “We are committed to keeping the UR debate team open to the entire campus and will always make it our mission to teach anyone to debate who wants to learn.”

Johnson said that the team’s total record for this year is 513 wins and 337 loses. “Frankly, this year has been an incredible dream.”

Johnson feels that their record is even more impressive when one considers how the UR debate team operates. “We don’t have any tryouts or cuts,” he said. “We take anybody who is willing to learn. These students then compete against some of the most highly trained people in the country, people who have been debating for years.”

“The fact that we are able to win in an environment that would seem to be disadvantageous is a testament to the high caliber of the UR students and to the team’s philosophy,” he said.

This weekend the team travels to Novice and Junior Varsity National Championships at Towson University. “I think that we have an excellent chance of bringing home the novice national title for the University of Rochester,” Novak said. “We are very excited about the tournament.”

Ferrara can be reached at aferrara@campustimes.org.

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