The Union University Debate Team completed their second tournament of the season by placing first in the International Public Debate Association sweepstakes this past weekend at Tennessee State University in Nashville.
The team placed first in both halves of the tournament and had four individual winners, two separate novices, one professional and one varsity debater. It also had all six top speakers of the sweepstakes out of six teams.
“We did well at the tournament last year and I wanted to try and duplicate last year’s results,” said Web Drake, associate professor of communication arts, department chairman and director of debate. “I think this year we did just as good and I’m pretty proud of the team. We did well.”
Debate topics ranged from current events to random subjects. Students were allowed to choose from a list of five topics for each round and given 30 minutes to prepare.
Individual tournament winners from the weekend were Graham Gardner, freshman math major, Sarah Troxel, freshman intercultural studies and applied linguistics major, Diamond Milan, senior speech communications major, and Allison Pulliam, junior political science and broadcast journalism double major.
Troxel said that even though this is only her first year on the debate team, she has learned the importance of the ability to communicate effectively.
“The ability to listen is something I have learned that I wasn’t expecting to learn,” Troxel said. “I think a lot of people think debate is about talking, but if you don’t know how to listen, you don’t know how to talk to them.”
Troxel won all of the preliminary rounds on the second day, which placed her in the top seed which meant if she went against any of her teammates in the next few rounds, she would automatically advance to the next position in the final rounds.
Drake said he loves seeing relationships grow between students.
“We love the activity and debate and discussing major topics, but we also love the van rides and hanging out at the tournaments and getting to know each other,” Drake said.
Drake has been the coach for the debate team since its establishment in 2008.
Troxel said that some of the major things the debate team has taught her are critical thinking skills, knowing basic current issues and the ability to communicate issues with people effectively.
“[These ideals] have helped me see both sides to an argument because there are always multiple ways to,” Troxel said. “It has also helped me see that a lot of arguments are based on people’s definitions of things or what kinds of foundations that have been laid and not the actual evidence itself. So, if people would agree on definitions of different things or topics, a lot of arguments could be settled a lot easier.”
Thomas Gray, sophomore broadcast journalism major, won fifth place in varsity speaker points and was a semifinalist in the varsity division, the equivalent of third or fourth place. Gray started debate while in high school in Little Rock, Arkansas, five years ago.
Both Troxel and Gray agreed that being in debate has taught them their identity does not lay in the hands of their successes or failures.
“I’ve learned not to place my worth in my actions,” Gray said. “A lot of times I place my identity in debate, and when I came to Union, I learned that a lot of times debate doesn’t go the way you want it to and that’s OK because my worth should not be based on if I win or lose.”
Troxel said she remembers vividly something that Drake said to her one the way back to campus after a debate and how it encouraged her.
“He said that everyone is so different and everyone comes from different backgrounds, has different ideas about different things and shows love differently, but it’s so cool how God has brought all of us together and how our little debate team in a way is like the body of Christ,” she said.
The team will be traveling to Boise, Idaho, for the national competition at the end of the school year.
For more information about getting involved with the Debate Team, contact Web Drake at 731-661-5961 or firstname.lastname@example.org.