Multiple Wins for Gannon Debating Society

The Gannon Debating Society is going to need a bigger trophy case. Last fall, the team garnered significant wins and multiple awards, both team and individual, at three major debate tournaments sponsored by the National Education Debating Association (NEDA).

At Ball State University in Indiana last October, the team took second place overall arguing the topic, “Are political parties bad for effective government in the United States?” (As a member of the NEDA League, Saint Peter’s students are prepared to argue the affirmative and the negative). Gannon Debaters also took second place overall and second place in crossfire debate at Capital University in Ohio in November. At that 12-hour competition, Maude Sutherland ’14 and Stevi-Lorayn (VIx) Platzer ’14 represented Saint Peter’s College in the final round.

“We took a bunch of teams down that day,” said Gannon Debating Society President Sean Block ’13. The final tournament of the semester at Anderson University in Indiana last December was even more successful. There, Gannon Debaters walked away with nine of the 18 speaker and team prizes awarded for the top five places.

Block attributes the team’s success to a number of factors. Participation nearly doubled from last spring and members represent a full spectrum of academic disciplines including criminal justice, chemistry, communication and economics. “We’re getting very good information in preparation for the debates,” he noted. The team also finds support from assistant coach John Massey ’08 and Kathleen Tyrell, Esq. ’73 who team members affectionately call “Coach.” A former Gannon Debater, Tyrell helped reinvigorate the program in 2006 and has been a dedicated advisor and inspiration to many on the team. “People who meet her, want to do well in debate,” Block added.

This year’s exceptional performance is even more impressive given that fact that many Gannon debaters are rookie members who joined the team last August. For many, the process of preparing for a debate is just as rewarding as the outcome.

“The team not only has done exceptionally well, but it is truly interested in what it does,” Block explained. “For many of the debaters, this is a chance to build personal skills and explore important topics that have a large impact on their lives. Many of the debate topics offer a new way of looking at things that they may not have considered before.”

The second half of the academic year will be even busier as the approximately 14-active member team prepares for a series of Lincoln-Douglas debates on the intercollegiate level where they will debate the following topic: The United States federal government should substantially change its trade policies and/or practices with China. This says Block, will provide even more opportunities to flex thinking and public speaking skills since the tournaments will be held on the East Coast. The Gannon Debating Society will also host the NEDA national competition, March 9-10, 2012, at the College’s Jersey City campus.