The Hamilton College Debate Society competed in their annual international tournament in Ottawa on Nov. 10-13, resulting in unprecedented wins for the College.
Because the tournament was located outside the U.S., the team had to adjust their familiar form of debate (American Parliamentary) to the British Parliamentary style. The rules and etiquette conflict with their usual protocol, but there is one glaring difference beyond minor details: instead of debating one other partnership, now they had to face-off against three other teams.
This meant that for each round, Hamilton debaters needed to collaborate with an unfamiliar two-person team while competing against them—a tricky balance to maintain.
Despite their inexperience, the members’ skill in argumentation and rhetoric gave them an advantage over the 100 other debaters present. First-year students Keshav Arvind and Estella Brenneman placed third overall for novices, and partners Evan Weinstein ’19 and Wynston Pennybacker ’19 earned sixth place among the more seasoned debaters.
The topics this year included whether Latin American countries should support a military coup of the Venezuelan prime minister, whether feminists should seek to form explicitly feminist political parties rather than working within existing left-wing parties, whether schools should focus on modern literature at the expense of classics and whether we ought to regret the use of boycotts in global justice movements. These debate cases cover issues from economics to culture and everything in between; debaters have 15 minutes to develop an eight-minute speech with structured, reasoned arguments on a topic they frequently know little about.
The ability to complete this task well requires much more than communication skills and sheer intellect—hard work is also necessary. But for many members of the Hamilton team, the labor is well worth it. “The enriching experiences I’ve had in my academic classes coupled with the close-knit community of the debate team have made me want to work hard and win debates,” Pennybacker explained.
This marks the last competition of a remarkably successful semester for the team, but now is not the time to slack off, varsity member Reece Thompson ’18 said. “We always practice as if we’re about to go to a tournament. We want to build on this momentum to sharpen our skills even more.”
“This is a very exciting time for Hamilton Debate. Advancing to semi-finals and ranking so highly represents a new achievement for the team,” president Alexis Stroemer ’18 remarked. “I’m really proud of the progress we’ve made so far and I’m proud of where we’re headed.”