November 21, 2010

Forensics Society Tops Northeastern Rankings; Will Face International Teams

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The Cornell Forensics Society emerged on top of the Northeast rankings after its latest win on earlier this month at the University of Vermont. The team scored the highest point totals in the history of the tournament and dethroned UVM, the defending two-time champion.“We are having the most success Cornell University has ever had in the fall semester in terms of debate and forensics,” said Prof. Sam Nelson, industrial and labor relations, the team’s head coach.The forensics team competes in three different types of events: policy debate, worlds parliamentary debate and speech events. Each event is either an individual competition or a two-person debate.The team participates in four to five competitions each semester. Of the four this semester, Cornell has had a team in every final round, said Cornell Forensics Society President Leah Salgado ’11.  With the team’s success in the most recent competition, it captured first place in the world parliamentary debate and fifth place in the policy debate in the season’s standings. Cumulatively, Cornell has 302 points from the four competitions this semester. Its closest competitor, UVM, has 238 points.In addition, the Cornell Forensics Society is now recognized as one of the top debate teams in the world, Nelson said. The society is frequently invited to international competitions and has been to events in Malaysia, England and Canada. It is also sending five teams to attend the World Universities Debating Championship hosted in Botswana this December.“One thing that has changed the most in the last few years for us is we really have an international presence now. I am very excited about how we will do at the world championships in Botswana,” Nelson said.For the worlds parliamentary debate events, the team of Alex Bores ’13 and Ryan Yeh ’13 placed second at the UVM tournament. Partners Salgado and Danny Blackman ’13 also competed in the finals at UVM.“Nelson is doing a really good job. Some programs don’t do well because they don’t have a coach that cares about how students fare outside of the club as well as the actual competition, but [Nelson] really cares that we learn and grow outside of speech, too,” Salgado said.As a team, the Cornell Forensics Society scored 94 points in the competition, breaking the previous record of 86 points, which was set by UVM earlier this year.In the policy debate events, the veteran team of John Karin ’11 and Daniel Himmelstein ’11 have qualified for the prestigious National Debate Tournament twice and hope to do so again this year. Jason Wright ’12 and his partner Daniel Lee ’14 made the finals in two tournaments this semester.The Cornell Forensics Society is also looking to perform well in the bigger events that usually occur in the spring semester, Salgado said. They will attend the regional Championship at the end of spring semester, as well as the National Championship, which will be hosted at UVM in April.Last year at the national championships, two Cornell teams placed in the top 32, and one of the teams made it to the quarterfinals, where the top 16 teams competed.Some form of a speech and debate team has existed at Cornell since early in the University’s history, but today’s Cornell Forensics Society was formally established in the early 1980s by former Prof. Pam Stepp, industrial and labor relations.Nelson, who helped Stepp with the club in the 1980s, is now the head coach.“We owe a lot of our success to Nelson. He does a great job of bringing in talented speakers form around the world,” Salgado said.These guest coaches and lecturers include Alex Just, former president of the prestigious Oxford Debating Union, and Chris Croke and Steve Hind, current champions from Sydney, Australia.The forensics society has also lured notable debater Adam Garen from Berkeley to coach the policy debate teams.Nelson said he has a lot of high hopes for the future of the Cornell Forensics Society.“I’m really excited about the team establishing a tradition here as one of the top speech and debate programs in the world. We have a lot of talented underclassmen, and success breeds success,” Nelson said. “The top seniors who are great debaters attract freshmen, and it makes it easier to recruit the next generation of talent.”

Original Author: Hank Bao