Before Spring Break, Mercer’s debate team competed in the Florida-held Delta Sigma Rho-Tau Kappa Alpha National Championship Tournament. The team overall received third place, with sophomore Caleb Maier placing as the best overall speaker for the entire tournament. In addition, Gabriel Ramirez took fourth place and Hunter Pilkinton took fifth, meaning Mercer had three speakers place in the competition.
In a round of a parliamentary debate competition, pairs of students from the same university face off with a pair of students from another university. A topic is presented that is identified as the “gov” or government side of the argument. One team will be given that side of the debate while the other team is given the position of opposition, which is meant to attack the topic. The government team is then charged with defining all of the terms of the topic and defending the topic.
“It gets complicated” stated Maier.
An example topic could be “The government should raise taxes.” The government team would define all of the terms in that statement and present arguments for the claim. They team has to be careful with their definitions, however, because if the opposition team feels they set the definitions so no fair debate can be had, then the opposition can challenge on the basis of unfairness and win the debate.
The opposition to the topic then has several options. One such option is that the opposition can reject the government position and to present arguments for why it should be rejected. They could also propose an alternative plan. Another option is to offer a critique of the topic, meaning finding a flaw in the wording of the question.
The debate continues in this fashion until the closing segment, where each side makes their final remarks. In the final remarks, each team brings up previous arguments made and explains why they feel that they should win the debate. Individuals, pairs and entire schools are awarded points based on their actions within multiple debates within a tournament and winners are chosen in this fashion.
At this tournament, Maier received first place over all of the speakers at the event.
“The whole team was both surprised and very, very proud. While the other three members of the team that we were able to take to Nationals had high school debate experience, Caleb was a walk-on to the team last year, in his first year here at Mercer,” team coach James Stanescu stated. Though Maier is new to debating, Stanescu knows that he has devoted time and energy to understanding the format and style of debate.
Next year has a great deal in store for the debate team. In addition to continuing to compete in parliamentary debate, the team hopes to expand their horizons in terms of competition and in service.
“Mercer Debate has always felt we have two missions, one is competitive success, and the other is to help spread and promote the educational and democratic value of debate to people who might not be able to experience it,” Stanescu claimed.
The debate team has hosted a mock Congress for high school students on Mercer’s campus, as well as individuals from the team have worked with youth in the community and through schools to promote the morals and intellectual importance of debate. They also travel around Georgia to serve as judges for high school debate competitions.