Hillsdale Debate team fin­ishes semester strong | Wiki­media Commons

The Hillsdale Debate Team made it to the quar­ter­finals of the Bearcat Classic tour­nament at McK­endree Uni­versity this past weekend, facing schools up to 20 times the size of Hillsdale.

“This season our team has been suc­cessful at making sure at least several of our teams have winning records and make it to the final rounds of the tour­nament,” team accountant and senior Ben­jamin Beis said. “This has been both an indi­vidual and team effort, as we tend to prepare our argu­ments and col­lab­orate on strategies together.”

The 15 members of the team have com­peted dig­i­tally in both one-on-one or the Inter­na­tional Public Debate Asso­ci­ation and partner style or National Par­lia­mentary Debate Asso­ci­ation com­pe­ti­tions in four tour­na­ments this year. 

“IPDA tends to be much more acces­sible, sort of a common-sense debate, while NPDA tends to be a little faster, a little more tech­nical debate,” team coach and Hillsdale Debate team alumni Blake Faulkner ’12 said. 

In its second com­pe­tition of the season, the team received first place in the overall sweep­stakes award at Bowling Green State. In the third tour­nament, team captain and senior Tavio Pela received first place in IPDA debate. 

“Tavio is really good at helping teach the new people what they need to learn about how to succeed in a debate,” senior team member Frankie Vitale said. “He is good at orga­nizing people and is a very approachable leader for us.”

In both forms, stu­dents receive a propo­sition and are allotted 20 to 30 minutes to prepare to debate for 45 minutes. 

“We practice by having everyone debate res­o­lu­tions like those once a week,” Faulkner said. “We have to con­stantly keep up with the news and the current argu­ments in the news cycle.” 

Faulkner said debate is more cen­tered on argu­men­tation than content. 

“Debate is not about what you’re debating on, but how you’re debating it,” he said. 

Beis said he prac­tices once a week. 

“The best way to get good at debate is to do the activity; sitting around studying the theory in the abstract does little to help one argue better in practice,” he said. “The best way to learn debate is by doing debate.”

This year, the team con­tains four novices. 

“Several of them have won speaker awards, where you get points on how good of a speaker you are,” Faulkner said. 

Beis, who is grad­u­ating at the end of this semester, said debate has been an integral part of his time at Hillsdale. 

“The high­light of the season has been winning debates on argu­ments that I have researched and come across on my own time,” he said. “It really gives you a thrill when the one argument that you need to help you win a debate is some­thing that you lis­tened to in an Econ­omist podcast or read in a policy report that you hap­pened to read because it inter­ested you.” 

Next semester, the team will compete in two national tour­na­ments. Beis said he is proud to see his team succeed. 

“Certain argu­ments can become like little debate children to you, so when you share those argu­ments with your team­mates and they win a debate round with the argu­ments, it gives you a feeling of pride akin to what a parent expe­ri­ences when their children accom­plish great things,” he said.