Courtesy of Meg Kandarpa '23

Two Cornellians claimed top spot at the North American Universities Debating Championships in early April.

April 27, 2023

Speech and Debate Society Members Win North American Title in British Parliamentary Debate

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Cornell Speech and Debate Society emerged victorious over nearly eighty competitive teams, claiming top spot in the North American Universities Debating Championships held at Bates College from Friday, April 7 to Sunday, April 9. 

According to Meg Kandarpa ’23, competitors participate in a six-round “British Parliamentary” or “worlds-style” debate, in which participants are given a previously unknown resolution and have limited time to assemble a cohesive set of evidence, arguments and counterarguments.

The winning team consisted of Sun senior editor Eli Pallrand ’24, who is also the president of the CSDS, and Kandarpa, former captain of the British Parliamentary Debate Team within CSDS.

Pallrand joined CSDS during his first year at Cornell, with Kandarpa joining at the same time as a sophomore after transferring to Cornell.

“When I joined the team, everybody was just very nice and very open, willing to help you grow and learn and practice more,” Pallrand said. “It was a nice environment even during COVID.” 

After being partners for two years, and with Kandarpa’s graduation this spring, the win was especially meaningful for the pair. Last year, the duo attempted to participate in the NAUDC’s virtual competition, but had to drop out after the first round as Pallrand was competing from the Charlotte Douglas International Airport and had to deal with flight rescheduling.

“I’ve been doing debate for seven [total] years [including] high school, and this was my final tournament,” Kandarpa said. “I call it my mic drop moment.”

Prof. Sam Nelson, industrial and labor relations, has been the director of CSDS for the past twenty years.

Nelson explained that Kandarpa and Pallrand won against teams from universities such as McGill University and Stanford University in the semi-finals. In the finals, Kandarpa and Pallrand won against teams from University of Chicago, Dartmouth College and Yale University.

“[The win is] really a testament to both of the debaters… who really work hard,” Nelson said.

Other teammates, such as Abigel Manaye ’24, deputy captain of the British Parliamentary team within CSDS, were also thrilled by the victory.

“One of our teams [winning] the whole tournament was really exciting,” Manaye said. “It was just a very diverse group of individuals and to have a [partnership that includes a] woman win that whole championship… it was something that was really outstanding.”

For Ram Orfanel ’25, deputy captain of the British Parliamentary team of CSDS, watching the victory was a moment of pride.

“I was personally watching the finals, and it was a momentous time because I saw the argument being made and I was really proud of the type of speeches that both Meg and Eli gave,” Orfanel said. “It really did reflect the amount of effort that they put in and what debating is at its peak.”

In addition to NAUDC, during the winter of 2024, CSDS will be sending debaters to compete in the Worlds championship in Vietnam.

Above winning and competing in championships, CSDS members emphasized that the organization prioritizes establishing a welcoming community, with Nelson mentioning the importance of giving back to the local community.

Nelson noted that in addition to competitions, CSDS, which is a University-sponsored club through the ILR school, runs community outreach initiatives where they work with younger students, incarcerated people and elderly people on debate skills. Furthermore, while CSDS is a hefty time commitment, the team keeps an open member policy, encourages novices to get involved and understands academic priorities.

Orfanel explained that his favorite part of debate is the balance the group strikes between keeping a competitive spirit and fostering friendship, noting that they regularly enjoy dinner together after heated debates.

“[Our] shared passion for [speech and debate] is what binds us together in a way that [goes beyond] the competition,” Orfanel said. “We all like hanging out with each other, even though it is a competitive discipline.”