December 6, 2002

Cornell Debaters Revel in Success

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Cornell’s Debate Association will compete today and tomorrow in its last tournament of the semester at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

This year’s Cornell Debaters are continuing the tradition of success that the team has enjoyed in recent years. Last year novice debater and current Debate Association President Justin Berkowitz ’05 finished number one in the nation. Two other novice debaters, David Schoonover ’05 and Robert Glunt ’05, finished eighth and ninth respectively.


In reference to this year’s progress, Glunt said, “We’ve had a number of parties in the top speaker positions in various tournaments.”

So far this year, Cornell’s top finisher has been Brad Grossman ’04, who took second place at a tournament at the College of William and Mary.

This second place victory assured Grossman a slot in this year’s American Parliamentary Debate Association (APDA) national championship to be held at Brandeis University on April 11 to13, 2003.

Competition to qualify for nationals is a fierce challenge that Cornell debaters are more than willing to embrace. Last year a Cornell record three teams competed at nationals, with Andrew Grossman ’02 and Emmanuel Schanzer ’02 placing 10th.

Glunt is confident in this year’s team. “We expect three or four teams to qualify this year … as a whole we are doing better than last year,” he said.


Cornell will not face MIT, one of its toughest rivals, this weekend, since the hosting team judges the event and does not participate in competition. Cornell will have the opportunity to face its other strong rival, Yale.

In these debates, teams of two face off against one another in five general rounds, with the first team given approximately seven minutes to lay out their argument. This is followed by the opponents’ response, which lasts about eight minutes. The top eight teams move on to a single-elimination, bracketed tournament. Rules are based upon the British Parliamentary system.

Topics of debate are picked by the teams and run the gamut from traditional political, philosophical and societal issues to historical reexaminations and questions of popular culture. Berkowitz said that one of this year’s most outlandish debates centered on the “suggestion that the U.S. should have nuked the Soviet Union back in the 1950s.”

No prior research is done in preparation for the debates. Of this off-the-cuff aspect of debate, the APDA’s website says, “Parliamentary debate is an off-topic, extemporaneous form of competitive debate which stresses rigorous argumentation, logical analysis, quick thinking, breadth of knowledge, and rhetorical ability over preparation of evidence.”

Archived article by Michael Margolis