Baylor Hosts National Debate Tournament

April 3, 2001

The city of Minneapolis witnessed the crowning of the NCAA basketball champion Monday, but Baylor was the site for a different national championship last week. Monday night, April 2, the University of Iowa debate team won the prestigious National Debate Tournament, which was held at Baylor March 29 to April 2. Emory University took second place.

The tournament featured the top 78 college debate teams in the country from schools such as Dartmouth, Michigan State, Wake Forest and the University of California at Berkeley. Two teams from Baylor competed.

"A great thing about debate is that there are no conferences or divisions based on size of the school or program," said Dr. Karla Leeper, The Glenn R. Capp Professor of Forensics and associate professor of communication studies. "You always have small schools versus big schools, and the big schools do not win all the time. It is a great opportunity to have academic competition at all kinds of levels."

Over the four-day period, the two-member teams debated the topic "RESOLVED: That the United States Federal Government should substantially increase its development assistance, including increasing government to government assistance, within the Greater Horn of Africa." The tournament was sponsored by the American Forensic Association.

On Thursday, a banquet for the participants was held in Barfield Drawing Room at the Bill Daniel Student Center. Dr. Robert Baird, chair of the department of philosophy, Master Teacher and a former Baylor debater, was the featured speaker. Additionally, a trophy was presented to the University of California at Berkeley team, which was the national champion of the regular debate season.

The actual debates began Friday. The national tournament featured three days of preliminary competition in which all the teams debated eight times, four times for the affirmative position and four times taking the negative viewpoint. The strongest teams moved on to single-elimination debates until one team was named the winner.

A banquet was held Sunday night in which the winners of the individual awards were named. A team member from the University of Iowa was named the Top Speaker with a debater from Wake Forest finishing in second place.

"In every preliminary debate, the team gets a win or a loss and each person gets from one to 30 Quality Points," Leeper explained. "The person with the highest number of Quality Points receives the individual speaker award."

During the weekend, participants also were guests at a reception hosted by the Baylor Law School. In addition to the team members, high school debate students and approximately 100 alumni of the Baylor debate program, including all six national champions, attended.

"The chairman of the Board of Trustees (of the American Forensic Association) told me that our tournament was one of the best national tournaments he had ever attended. Everybody was very excited about it," Leeper said. "The weather was beautiful and the campus was gorgeous. In fact, a lot of people said that they had know idea that our campus is so beautiful."

The National Debate Tournament began in 1947 at the United States Military Academy, which hosted the competition for the first 20 years. A Baylor team has qualified for the tournament 42 out of 55 years, ranking in the top 10 squads for most national tournament appearances. Baylor's debate team has captured three national titles and is one of the two oldest extracurricular activities at the university.

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