The Monmouth University debate team received a team award at a Rutgers University Tournament on the weekend of Sept. 22 – 24, where debaters from the University reached the playoff rounds of the competition.
The annual tournament, which featured 65 teams of two students each, included participants from Cornell University, the United States Military Academy, and New York University.
The topic of the year was “Resolved: The United States Federal Government Should Establish National Health Insurance in the United States.”
The tournament took place over the course of three days, as students went through six preliminary rounds, each lasting approximately two hours, according to Joseph Patten, Ph.D., an associate professor in the political science department and the debate team advisor.
Each team argued the affirmative side for three rounds, and then the negative side for another three. The teams that compiled a winning record then continued into the playoff rounds.
University students Phoebe Nelson and Ryan Kelly reached the playoff round, before losing in a close decision to Liberty University.
“I’m incredibly proud of our debaters for having the courage and work ethic to compete against some of the best debate teams across the nation,” said Patten. “Our team captains James Hawke, Emely Diaz, and Sabria Saenger do a terrific job leading the team, and I’m really honored to be able to work so closely with all of our debaters.”
“This tournament is challenging yet rewarding,” said Brendan Bianchi, a senior homeland security student. “Debate tournaments are a competition of critical thinking, as well as endurance.”
Bianchi explained the tournament’s schedule, which consisted of long, “tiring” days.
“The first day of debates consists of members attending class [at Monmouth], finishing up homework, travelling, and then debating late into the night only to wake up bright and early the next day to debate for an approximately 8-10 hour day on abstract topics against incredibly smart people,” he said.
“It was tiring, but I walked away with an entirely new realm of knowledge that I had not yet been exposed to,” he continued.
In total, there were 14 students from Monmouth University competing in the tournament, including Nelson and Kelly, and co-captains Hawke and Saenger. Other competing students included Greg Harpe in the senior division, with Hawke and Saenger, Prachi Patel in the upper division, and Landon Myers, Brendan Bianchi, Abdullah Rashid, and Chris Diolosa. The team also included new debaters Chase Coram and Claudia Dimondo.
Co-captain Diaz and Kate Allsopp also participated by helping serve as team coaches.
University alums Daniel Roman and Matthew Toto also helped coach the team, as well as serving as tournament judges.
“It was overall an amazing experience,” said Patel, a senior political science major with minors in legal studies and international relations who competed with Saenger in the tournament. The two moved up in their division, scoring 3 – 3.
“This will be my fourth year debating; I decided to go to this tournament because I wanted to get as much experience as possible before going to more difficult tournaments,” Patel added.
“I am so proud of how we did, considering it was both of our first times competing in the Junior Varsity division,” said Saenger. She and Patel competed in two rounds on Friday night, and four on Saturday.
“This was Monmouth’s first time competing at the Rutgers tournament in a while,” she added, “The team usually does not compete until late October. So it was a really big accomplishment for us as a team to start our season early.”
The debate team, which currently has between 35 and 40 members according to Patten, has been competing against other universities at tournaments across the country since 2009.
It is already planned that the team will compete in five tournaments this year, including the Rutgers tournament. Monmouth University will host one of the tournaments in November.
“Most of our debaters join the team without any debating experience,” said Patten. “We have approximately 20 returning debaters, and fifteen debaters preparing to compete in their first tournament.”
“The Rutgers tournament was my first tournament,” said Bianchi, who joined the debate team in his junior year. “Any student with a keen sense of curiosity should attend at least one debate to gain that experience in such a unique environment.”
PHOTOS COURTESY of Joseph Patten