Four members of the UR Debate Union brought home awards from the Northeastern Universities Regionals Debating Championships at Western Connecticut State University last weekend, Feb. 22 and 23.

Freshman Sarah Hofmann and freshman Junior Joshua Sicelo Ndlovu won the title of novice regional semifinalists. Freshman Chris Perkins and freshman Miriam Kohn were named novice regional champions.

“Chris and Miriam were also in the top four novice teams in the continent at the Hart House debate tournament in Canada last semester, in addition to being novice national semifinalists several weeks ago at the Ithaca novice nationals tournament,” UR Debate Union President Nina Datlof said. Regarding the recent win, Datlof added, “Everyone was ecstatic about the success of both teams.”

There are three different formats for collegiate debate. In the British Parliamentary format, the team prepares by writing summaries of current issues that will be used in their argument. In Policy format, the debaters amass evidence about a specific issue that will be argued at tournaments all year long.

At regionals, the format is a little different; the students use a style of debate known as World’s Universities. Director of Forensics and Debate Coach Ken Johnson explained the format, saying, “the debaters get their debate topic and their assigned side fifteen minutes before the debate begins.”

Despite this last-minute style of debating, the UR students did extremely well, even when presented with topics like diplomacy, prostitution, and academic tenure.

“Our students have to be informed about a wide variety of domestic and international issues” Johnson said.“[They] work really hard to compete against the best and the brightest students from other universities, so it is great to see all of that work translate into success.”

The team’s leaders have big visions for the future. Perkins and Kohn, the regional champions, will be traveling to Austria this coming weekend for another tournament. Vienna will be the UR team’s first trip overseas in more than three years. Over the next few years, the team has their eye on the U.S. Universities National Championship and the World Debate Championship.

“We have some really special and talented students who are just starting out with debate,” Johnson said. “I think there are going to be many more championships coming our way in the next few years.”

Passanisi is a member of the class of 2017.

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