With the tournament season having recently ended, the Portland State debate team can now sit back and relax after competing in 15 tournaments. The team traveled to far reaching places including the World Universities Debating Tournament in Ireland.
With the tournament season having recently ended, the Portland State debate team can now sit back and relax after competing in 15 tournaments.
The team traveled to far reaching places including the World Universities Debating Tournament in Ireland, the Oxford University Debate Tournament in England—where PSU teams made it to the quarter finals competing against colleges from all over Europe and the United States—and the U.S. Universities National Debating Championships, where Portland State competed against teams such as Harvard, MIT, Cambridge and other prominent U.S. debate teams.
During the course of the season the team is usually comprised of 30-40 students and meets weekly to prepare for upcoming debate tournaments.
“Debate is about matter and manner. It is not only about the content of the speech, but about how the speech is delivered. When you step up to the podium it feels like stepping into a spotlight on a dark stage,” said Selina Poulsen, a19-year-old sophomore anthropology and classical studies major.
On the other hand, Will Parker, a junior business administration major, gave slightly different reasons.
“I love debate because it gives me the opportunity to argue with anyone about anything,” said Parker, 27. “That, and piss people off.”
The Portland State team has hosted two high school tournaments and one college tournament this year. Hosting helps to fund the many tournaments Portland State participates in at home and abroad. They will host more next year including, hopefully, middle school tournaments.
Along with the money earned by hosting tournaments, the team is also funded by the Student Fee Committee.
Aside from tournaments and traveling, the team meets weekly to practice and share ideas. They debate subjects that are generally more abstract than those they would formally debate, but claim they are no less important.
“We write briefs almost weekly, arguing both sides of any given topic and listing those arguments. Many socioeconomic topics seem to pop up as do other current affairs. For example one question we reviewed was whether housing is a human right or not,” said Kelly Welch, a recent Portland State graduate and political science major.
Welch is the co-coordinator of the debate team along with Dana Hawthorne, a 20-year-old economics major.
“I have learned more through debate than any other class or activity,” Hawthorne said.
All students present agreed that being on the debate team has positively impacted their lives in and out of school.
“Debate has helped with academia. Essays are generally better and easier to write since we have to speak and organize our thoughts in an essay format for debate. Also speaking confidence is much higher. Job interviews for example, are much less nerve wrecking after speaking and debating in front of hundreds of people,” Welch said.
Welch and Hawthorne comprise one of the many two-person teams within the Portland State debate team. Each team gets a chance to debate at any given tournament. Starting with preliminaries teams are scored one through four, four being the least desirable and possibly leading to elimination.
If a team succeeds to make it through all rounds, they must compete in finals against two teams and with one other team. Again they are scored on a one to four scale. Their score in finals is their rank for the tournament.
Portland State teams won three of the 15 tournaments this year, quite a feat considering on average there are somewhere between 36 and 600 competitors at each tournament.
“Portland State’s debate team is the most successful competitive team on campus. That no one knows about,” Welch said.