University Debate Team Reaches Finals in California

debateThe University’s Debate Team won 10 awards at the Western National Novice Debate Championship hosted by the Sacramento State University in CA. 

At the tournament, six teams of two students competed from the University. 

The debate team has two co-captains: Michelle Grushko, a junior political science and psychology double major, and Dan Roman, a senior political science major. 

The Monmouth Debate Team won a total of 10 team and individual awards. Five teams continued to the playoffs after six rounds and two days of debating. Competing schools included the University of San Francisco, California State University, and the University of Washington.

The Monmouth Debate Team was founded in 2008. According to Dr. Joseph Patten, Chair of the of the Political Science and Sociology Department, and coach of the debate team, this year has been their most successful. 

“Each of the teams over the last three years have really been the best. One of the things about this year’s team is that at the California tournament we brought six teams, and of the six teams, five teams made it to the playoffs. That’s the greatest number of teams that we have ever had make it to the playoffs in one tournament. What that means is that our team is deep. What’s unique about this year is that we had a lot of teams that could win. That’s really good to see,” said Patten.

Each year there is a specified national resolution to be debated. This year’s resolution was: the United States should legalize all or nearly all of one or more of the following: marijuana, online gambling, physician-assisted suicide, prostitution, the sale of human organs

Sana Rashid, a chemistry student, won a third place speaker award, and was second place with her partner in the tournament. “Everyone needs a partner, unless you go maverick which is really hard. But anyways, on a team you compete against other schools who argue different sides of the same resolution. There are always two sides to the same topic, and during the tournament I argued legalizing organ sales. Teams argue either affirmative or negative, and the Monmouth Debate Team prepared two different cases for the tournament; legalizing prostitution and another for organ sales,” said Rashid.

Throughout the year, the team debated against many different universities regardless of their rank. 

“One of the greatest things about our debate team is that it helps to bring prestige to the University in the sense that our students are competing with Universities from all over the country including Ivy League schools, and the Big Ten. It is because of that that I have so much admiration for our students. They have the courage, work ethic, and fighting spirit to represent our University in such an impressive way,” said Patten.

Leading up to their successes in CA, the Debate Team partook in three other tournaments. The debate team competed in West Point, West Virginia University, and hosted a tournament at the University titled the 5th annual Jersey Shore Debate tournament. 

In between tournaments the team would meet weekly and practice the art of debate. Members practiced writing cases, and reading out loud. 

Prior to the California debate, former debaters returned to the team to help coach. “Some novice teams were able to get extra help thanks to former debaters Lianne Kulik and Kelly Craig who volunteered their time to come back and help us practice,” said Payal Patel, a junior political science major who left California a semi-finalist. 

“Honestly, if they hadn’t been there to help out, I probably would not have done so well at the tournament,” Patel continued.

Such extracurricular programs at the University are necessary to enhance the quality of college life for University students, according to Patten.

The debate team members also spend time coaching the Asbury Park High School Debate Team. In February, the high-schoolers placed second at a New York City Urban Debate League tournament in the Bronx, their highest ever finish.

“It is wonderful to see our debate team continue to compete successfully, especially at the national level. I am very proud of their track record in tournaments, and also for all the important work they do as mentors in Asbury Park. I am particularly impressed by the breadth of experience that the team represents,” said University President Paul Brown. 

“Having members from different academic areas, including students with majors as diverse as chemistry and political science, really makes the debate team something all of Monmouth University should celebrate,” added Brown. 

PHOTO COURTESY of Graziella Ruffa