The University’s Debate Team received two awards at the West Point Military Academy Debate Tournament this weekend, over the weekend of Friday, Oct. 26 – Sunday, Oct. 28.
Nine teams comprised of 18 debaters compete in several divisions of the tournament. The team of Julia Bialy, a junior political science student, and Maddy Doe, a junior political science student; the team of Matt Gruhler, a junior political science student, and JP Suttile, a junior political science student, received awards for making it into the playoff rounds on Sunday after debating in six rounds on Friday and Saturday. The Bialy and Doe team ultimately lost in the playoff rounds to a team from the United States Military Academy, and Gruhler and Suttile narrowly lost to a team from George Mason University.
“We had a lot of new teams compete at the West Point tournament, which is a very prestigious national tournament. I really admire their grit and work ethic in that many of our teams practiced through eight 2-hour scrimmages in preparation for this tournament,” said Joseph Patten, Ph.D., adviser to the University’s Debate Team and an associate professor of political science. “We also have extraordinary leadership in our experienced debaters and co-captains. I have so much respect and admiration for all of our debaters and feel blessed to be affiliated with them.”
The tournament included approximately 130 debaters from teams from 12 universities including Cornell University, George Mason University, West Point Military Academy, West Virginia University, Liberty University, U of Rochester, NYU, and New School.
Each year, a topic is picked to be debated at every tournament. The topic for this year has been Resolved: The United States Federal Government should substantially increase statutory and/or judicial restrictions on the executive power of the President of the United States in one or more of the following areas: authority to conduct first-use nuclear strikes; congressionally delegated trade power; exit from congressional-executive agreements and Article II treaties; judicial deference to all or nearly all federal administrative agency interpretations of statutes and/or regulations; the bulk incidental collection of all or nearly all foreign intelligence information on United States persons without a warrant.
On the affirmative side of the debate most of the MU teams advocated for a “No First Use” nuclear policy, which is a U.S. pledge to only use nuclear weapons in a retaliatory fashion.
Suttile explained that this tournament was the first debate in which he and Gruhler competed. “Going in to it we both did not know what to expect. Prior to the tournament, we both made it a point to go through the evidence and scrimmage as much as possible. Once we were in round everything started to click,” he explained. “Overall the West Point debate tournament was a great experience.
He continued, “Matt and I were able to communicate really well and worked great together which definitely played a huge part in making it to the playoff rounds. Making it to the break rounds during my first debate tournament was an amazing feeling, however majority of our success came from the excellent coaching of Dr. Patten and all the team captains.”
Gruhler explained that he and Suttile spent about 16 hours scrimmaging in preparation for their first real experience in the debate tournament. He said, “Yet going into our first round I was terribly nervous regardless of the hours spent practicing and scrimmaging.”
He noted that debate is, “a unique and fun experience that is unexplainable and must be experienced to truly understand how it motivates you fully academically and connects you with so many different various and diverse Monmouth students that you normally wouldn’t have known.”
Doe explained that hers and Bialy’s most important strategy was to committing to the bit, even when a round feels hopeless. “Yelling about how it is better to die a free thinker than live another day as a subject is kind of insane, but that’s just what you have to do sometimes. The highlight of my weekend was arguing that extinction from nuclear war is impossible because aliens will intervene to stop it and winning that argument,” she said.
Each member agreed that Patten was extremely helpful, and he always took the extra time to help the team to prepare. “His dedication is second to none and we are extremely lucky to have him as a coach,” Suttile said.
Gruhler agreed and said that debate is a program that cannot be run without the assistance and guidance of their adviser Patten. “He pushes each student to their academic potential while being a caring professor that wants to see each of his debaters and students succeed, regardless if he has to stay on campus until 8 pm each night,” he said. “Debate has been one of the best aspects of Monmouth U for me since it has cultivated wonderful friendships and academic determination that I wouldn’t be fortunate to have without it.”
The team will compete at New York University this upcoming weekend, Friday, Nov. 9 – Sunday, Nov. 11.
PHOTOS COURTESY of Kenneth Mitchell, Ph.D.