Debate Team receives award in competition

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Mercer Debate Society recently competed in its first competition of the year, with two of its members, Lindsey Hancock and Hunter Pilkinton, winning the first parliamentary debate of the season. Pilkinton and Hancock scored an almost perfect score over the two days that the tournament took place, making this the best showing Mercer University has had in parliamentary debate.

“It was really exciting, Hunter and I had been partners since the beginning of last semester, so this was of course the highest award we had won together, and I think it’s the highest award we’ve won period since we both started debate in high school,” said Hancock. In debate tournaments, teams consist of two people, with each alternating different positions in the debate they are participating in.

According to Dr. Vasile Stanescu, who has been the team’s coach and adviser since 2010, “You can win individual rounds and still win if you just get the majority, but they took every single ballot in the preliminary rounds.” The final rounds of tournament where judged by a three-person panel, each member of whom cast ballots to decide who wins a round. Hancock and Pilkinton only lost one ballot in the last round.

The University of North Georgia hosted the tournament, with around 80 schools competing. Some of the competing schools were Valdosta State, Morehouse College and North Georgia itself.

According to Hancock, a big reason she and Pilkinton did so well was the support of the debate team. “I think that we also have to emphasize the team effort, though, because coming out of the tournament like that after you’ve won like a first place award, it really starts to hit home how much we need each other because when we’re prepping up for these rounds,” says Hancock. The team hosts weekly practice rounds, and when a competition is approaching, they occasionally get a list of possible topics so they can research and think about those topics. The list of topics they are given is only a list of possible topics though, so they still have no way of knowing exactly what they will be debating at the competitions.

The other members of the team where pleased with Hancock’s and Pilkinton’s achievement. “I have no experience with [debate] and I was put in on the varsity level, which was pretty scary, but just seeing my teammates, how they conducted themselves in that setting, it was really inspiring,” said Rainea Cumberbatch, who earned special recognition at the same tournament in a category reserved for first time debaters.

Caleb Maier, another member of the team, also voiced his pleasure. “I’ve been on here for a while, so I was very excited, but I wasn’t surprised at all; they’re very good debaters,” said Maier.

This is not the first time that members of Mercer’s debate society have won awards. Maier previously achieved the rank of number one speaker at a past tournament in 2012, held at the University of Florida, and Pilkinton won state speaker at the Varsity and Novice levels during his first year of college in 2012.

“I would say we’ve become increasingly competitive over the last year and a half,” said Hancock, referring to their increasing number of awards. Stanescu also agreed, saying that he felt like the team was receiving more attention this year, and had an increasing number of members.

The team usually attends six tournaments a year, and plans to attend the National Tournament, held in Arizona, March 21 to March 25. Stanescu said that they hope to start attending more tournaments each year, if possible. The debate team meets each Wednesday at 4:30 in room 116 of the CTH building.

An earlier version of this article was incorrect in regards to how long Vasile Stanescu has been coach of the Mercer Debate Team. Stanescu became coach in August.