Debate finishes strong in Ireland

by Cherryl F. Cercado
Editorial Assistant

Making its third appearance at the World Championships, the University of La Verne’s debate team continued to leave its mark in ULV history books when it traveled to Cork, Ireland and came away with a strong finish.

The team consisting of Josh Heydorff and Scott Mac Kay finished 50th and the second team composed of Bonnie Chuen and Christina Hernandez placed 130th. All four are juniors.

Competing with 247 teams from around the world, the ULV team outranked many prestigious schools, such as Cambridge, Stanford and Yale. The team also had a chance to debate in the City Council Chambers, in front of the Lord Mayor of Cork.

“Both teams worked hard and performed well,” said Jason Sandford, director of debate. “At the same time I think they overcame some great obstacles, in the sense that American teams right now aren’t very popular among other countries, but despite that, they’ve done very well.”

The tournament stipulated that teams utilize parliamentary style debate, a style based on the British Parliament system, in which evidence is not used. The team is given a motion to debate and within 15 minutes the case must be ready.

“The East has been doing it [parliamentary] for quite a long time and same with Canada,” said Heydorff. “It is a style that the west coast is just catching on to. We’re one of the founding schools in parliamentary debate on the west coast.”

The debate team then traveled to London where it participated in an exhibition debate with the London School of Economics and took in some sightseeing.

“In London, we saw everything,” said Heydorff. “We saw the Tower of London and Big Ben. Scott and I actually went inside Parliament, in the House of Lords and the House of Commons.”

The team then went to Houston, Texas, and participated in the Rice University Annual Tournament, affectionately called the Bargain Basement Blue Ribbon Bonanza because it is designed to cut costs for participating schools by distributing ribbons instead of trophies. The lack of a fancy banquet at the conclusion of the tournament is also a contributing factor to its name.

Heydorff and Mac Kay reached the final round and finished second while Chuen and Hernandez placed ninth overall.

Despite its name, the tournament is a prestigious one, Heydorff said.

“There were teams from all over the country that are supposed to be doing very well at the national championships,” he said. “Scott and I were very pleased with how we did. We made it all the way to the final round and lost because we took a gamble. The only reason we lost was on a technicality. A technicality of definition procedures.”

Heydorff and Mac Kay argued that the individual nation states of the European Union should trade their political and economic cultural identity for the economic stability. The opposing team, Regis University from Denver, Colo., appealed to the judges on the basis that the definition Heydorff and Mac Kay had given did not adequately deal with the issue of cultural identity.

The important thing, he said, was “knocking out one of the top teams, which is probably going to win the nationals this year.”

According to Sandford, the team’s success lies partially with their confidence in knowing they possess the basics of argumentation and debate.

“I help and encourage them to improve those skills,” he said. “Secondly, I look at them as an individual and see the differences and I ask, how can I use those differences to make that person develop into a real speaker with their own identity. At that point, one goes beyond the basics. The third thing is to help them know about the other people they’re competing against.”

Heydorff also cites the ability to network well as one of the team’s main strengths. “We’re lovable on the debate circuit.”

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