Austin Phillips –
For the first time in twenty years, the Illinois College Debate Team is back in business, travelling around the country to various tournaments. The team debuted their skills at the University of Kentucky in Lexington.
At the team’s second event at Vanderbilt University, Renata Gray, a senior Communication & Rhetorical Studies major, brought the team’s first win as a cooperative team with a teammate from another college, and was also awarded the prize for 9th best speaker in the novice division. Austin Brooks, also a senior Communications major, placed as the 11th best speaker.
Since then, the team attended the University of Central Oklahoma tournament and won Illinois College’s first win as a “pure” IC team. Both Nathaniel Groh and Nisreen Zaqout placed high in the speaker point competition as 8th and 6th respectively.
Though there are many different types of debate at the collegiate level, IC only participates in cross-examination style, or policy debate. This is not the same kind of debate you have with your roommate, though. But if you often enter your room with a speech prepared and have researched your arguments for weeks to argue over the setting of the thermostat, then you might want to join the debate team.
James Hills, a sophomore Political Science major, says, “Debate is the most polarizing experience you can have. One minute you will be on a euphoric high, the next minute you will want to curl up and cry in a ditch. But at the end of the day, it’s still worth it. Nothing beats travelling around the country arguing with people you’ve never met.”
That’s what makes debate fun for participants – the competition, the research, and the ability to travel around the country.
Every debater on the IC team is new to debate, and while the learning curve is steep, it’s clear the team is making great strides. Debating is a great way to improve one’s public speaking, research skills, self confidence, and even writing. While IC has many opportunities to improve one’s public speaking, none are as rigorous or competitive as policy debate. Debate also has the added benefit of being switch-side, which means debaters argue both for and against ideas.
Nick Sciullo, the Director of Debate and also an Assistant Professor of Communication and Rhetorical Studies, says, “Debating both sides of an issue makes debaters better arguers because it forces them to understand arguments they might not agree with.”
The debate team helps to complement the College’s liberals arts philosophy. Dr. Sciullo, who has a long history of debate success including sending back-to-back teams to the National Debate Tournament (NDT) in the last two years, says, “The amount of research a debater does over one year on a given one resolution [the topic debaters debate the entire year] is equal to the amount of research completed in one semester of a graduate seminar.”
Regardless of your experience arguing or interest in politics, policy debate is a challenging activity and requires a heap of commitment that ultimately encourages a fulfilling way of thinking outside the classroom. It’s just one more way IC is helping its students be more well-rounded individuals.