By Sarah Palmer
Nervous fingers fidget with a small, plastic, digital timer in a bare classroom.
A young man writes on the whiteboard. He turns and picks up his legal pad, asking his opponent and the judge if they are ready to begin.
With their nods of approval, he begins to speak as the timer beeps into life.
“I’d like to thank you, judge, for coming out on this Friday afternoon to hear a couple of guys debate,” says the man.
And with that, he begins to speak at a rapid pace, using emphatic hand gestures, deliberate eye contact and an emotional tone of voice.
His opponent sits with his head bowed, furiously scribbling notes of questions and rebuttals on another legal pad.
A debate round has begun.
The 2010 Bulldog Classic Debate Tournament was held at Union Nov. 19–20.
Debate Coach Dr. Web Drake, associate professor of communication arts and department chair, leads Union University’s debate team.
This is only the second year Union has hosted this tournament and Drake’s third year as debate coach, and already nine teams were in attendance — three high school teams and six college teams.
The teams included Union University, University of Arkansas at Monticello, University of Central Arkansas, Mississippi College, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, Stephen F. Austin State University (Texas), Har Ber High School (Ark.), Middle Tennessee Homeschool Debate Association and Madison Academic High School.
Only a few members of the Union debate team participated in the tournament.
“This is more about hosting than winning,” Drake said.
Jed Dugger, junior music education major who has been part of the debate team since his sophomore year, said normally a school’s team is not entered to win its own tournament, but they needed to fill two divisions.
As for the tournament’s outcome, Har Ber High School won the Sweepstakes, which is cumulative points of the tournament. Nicole Broshius of Har Ber won the Novice division, Dugger won the Varsity division and Mark Lowery of UCA won the Professional division.
Overall, Drake said the tournament went well.
“I heard a lot of positive feedback,” he said.
“(A) great job by maintenance, the computer folks, housekeeping and everybody who contributed.”
Dugger said he enjoyed participating in a debate that was so close to home.
“For the first time, some of my friends were able to watch me debate and see what I have been doing with my time for a year and a half,” he said. “It was also great to win the tournament as a Union debater.”
Union’s debate team functions under the rules of the International Public Debate Association, whose mission is to “provide an opportunity for individuals to develop their advocacy skills in a forum that promotes appropriate and effective communication,” according to its website.
The reason Union hosted its own tournament, Drake said, is because nearly every debate team hosts a tournament.
“It is important to have a tournament at Union because it establishes our team on the IPDA circuit,” Dugger said.
“There are some teams that just compete, but for the most part teams on the circuit both compete in tournaments and host at least one tournament a season.”
Union’s debate team is in its third season and has done well in its first two tournaments of the year.
The team has also quickly become a force to be reckoned with in the IPDA, winning the national championship in March 2010.