While some teams and clubs on campus are more prominent and well-known than others, it is sometimes the unknown organizations that are the most successful.

One such team, which is not often in the spotlight but proudly represents UR across the country, is the Debate Union. The Debate Union had a stellar year and is looking to do even better in the future.

This past year, they had teams represent us at the Cross Examination Debate Association Nationals as well as at the National Debate Tournament. The NDT is the most prestigious tournament of its kind, with only 74 teams nationwide able to participate.

The Debate Union also had the top novice team in the nation, based on win-loss record in both preliminary and playoff rounds composed of freshman Ryan Bach and junior Iskra Miralem.

Just a sample of some other season highlights include capturing the Junior Varsity National Championship at West Virginia University in March, the Buffalo University Varsity Championship in October and the Novice Championship at University of Texas-Dallas in January.

At the end of the season, they came out ahead in the rankings above regional rival schools Cornell University, New York University, U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Binghamton University and University of Vermont.

They also repeated this year as the largest squad in the nation, with over 50 undergraduates participating in intercollegiate debate tournaments.

In the two most important final yearly rankings – the NDT rankings and the CEDA rankings – the team ranked eighth and tenth respectively. In the CEDA East they were ranked third overall.

Both of these rankings were improvements over last year’s when the team ranked 19th in the NDT rankings and 13th in the CEDA rankings. This is no new trend for our Debate Union. For years they have been ranking very high and breaking new ground.

Such great accomplishments obviously cannot be reached without the strength of all members of the team, ranging from novice to veteran.

“The contributions of our novice and junior varsity debaters especially allowed us to break back into the top 10 where we belong,” Debate Union President Ben Wittwer said.

Wittwer also gives a special shout out to the veteran seniors saying, “The Debate Union will miss the leadership of seniors Pat Hitchcock and Ron Ro who are graduating this year, because both have made significant contributions to our success,” he said. “We had a lot of fantastic new debaters this year, and next year I expect more of our typical novice success along with a lot of success at the upper levels due to the maturation of those debaters who joined the team this and last year. It should be one of our most successful seasons.”

So, with next year’s topic likely to be in the legal realm, the Debate Union wants to further their progress, and if you think you can help them they encourage you to stop by Morey Hall Room 100 and check out the team and the topic.

I’ve actually had first hand experience with the Debate Union and while I personally felt I had too much on my plate to contribute to their team, I can tell you whole-heartedly that they will take in and work with debaters of all stripes.

So whether you’re a novice or a veteran, don’t be afraid to go check these guys out and maybe you’ll help them become even better than they are now. Also check out a video segment that four members of the team filmed with URTV.

Finally, to our own UR Debate Union, congratulations on a stellar year that has made all of the university community proud. We all hope to hear about your successes in the future.

Sen can be reached at


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