The Portland State Debate Team started its season strong at the Claremont McKenna’s U.S. Universities National Open Debate Tournament, where Lindsay Bing and Aaron Baker placed second out of 46 teams from across the nation.
Debate Team kicks season off with a bang
The Portland State Debate Team started its season strong at the Claremont McKenna’s U.S. Universities National Open Debate Tournament, where Lindsay Bing and Aaron Baker placed second out of 46 teams from across the nation. PSU debaters Aaron Powell and Katie Slayden took 22nd place.
The debate itself was structured in the British Parliamentary style, in which there are four teams of two people and each round is divided into “proposition” and “opposition.” The debaters had only 15 minutes to prepare for each round and were not allowed to use the Internet or any other electronic sources.
Much like in a basketball tournament, the debaters are seeded (ranked) and compete in eight preliminary rounds before the top eight move into the semi-final elimination round. The debate topics are on anything current or controversial.
“Birth rate, citizenship, death penalty and human-caused environmental catastrophes,” Baker said of the topics.
Though there are often difficulties in debating a side that one doesn’t agree with, Bing has found a way to get past it.
“[Defend] a topic without violating your moral inclinations … It’s somewhat like theater,” she said. “You get to be like Stephen Colbert.”
For Baker, debate became a pathway to better social understandings.
“This is an interesting and unbelievably thoughtful community,” Baker said. “You’re learning how to have confrontations.”
Baker and Bing, who have been paired together since last year, have become a very successful team; while Baker is good at the informative part of debate, Bing is better at framing arguments.
After eight rounds the Bing-Baker team found themselves in the final pairing, for which the topic was whether or not to protect Pakistani sovereignty against NATO military operations.
Though the University of Alaska’s team, led by Colin Haughey and Michaela Hernandez, took first place, both Baker and Bing believe second place is something to be proud of.
“I was relieved—to be in the final round last year and to come out and flop [this year] would have been disappointing,” Bing said.
According to Baker, the final results don’t center around whether the argument was won or lost, but on the team’s argument in relation to interest, responses and substance.
Former student Kelly Welch is now the Debate Team’s adviser. She travels with the team and offers encouragement, as well as experience.
“I was a competitor last year,” she said. “Now I keep people’s spirits up and keep track of everyone.”
Welch prepares the team with printed material briefs before the tournament, in addition to holding practice debates and impromptu speeches.
“I was very proud of them,” Welch said. “Everyone performed admirably; it was a good educational experience.”
Welch set up the PSU team in a pro-am style, in which seniors are paired with freshmen of complimentary skills, with exceptions for teams like Bing and Baker.
The team’s next tournament will be held on Nov. 7 and 8 at the University of Vermont in Burlington. In addition, the team expects to compete at nationals this year at Adelphi University in Long Island, N.Y. ?