Amherst Debate Team Attends World Championships
Issue   |   Wed, 02/11/2015 - 00:15

Two teams and one judge from Amherst’s debate team attended the 35th World Universities Debating Championships over interterm. Seniors David Walchak, Jeremy Rubel, Edgar Casildo, Timothy Yuan and Mary Byrne participated in the championships, which took place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Nearly 400 debate teams from around the world competed at the event.

Rubel and Walchak, former presidents of the team, placed 63rd after nine consecutive preliminary rounds, in which teams debated topics such as whether a liberal arts education should be replaced with vocational training in underprivileged communities, and whether the media should report crimes committed by those with mental illness.

The debate championships were held in the British Parliamentary style.

“Since the British Parliamentary form of debate is slightly different, a lot of our preparation involved practicing that style,” Walchak said. “We attended U.S. tournaments held in the style and had practice debates with the team. The style is a bit more informal, and it took some practice to figure it out.”

The Amherst team finished close to the 48th-place cutoff for the knockout rounds of the tournament.

“I’m really happy with the outcome,” Walchak said. “Of course it would have been nice to advance to later rounds, but since we didn’t ever expect to be close, it was just nice to have a few exciting rounds toward the end. The rounds get harder as the tournament goes on, which meant we got to see some really great debaters in the last few rounds.“

Rubel said that the debate was a good learning experience.

“At a world tournament, debaters come from all over the world … everyone in the round takes for granted radically different nationally specific realities,” he said. “Hopefully, over the course of the tournament, I got a little bit better at taking stock of my own cultural assumptions and speaking directly to judges on their own terms.”

Casey McQuillan ’17, one of the co-presidents of the debate team, said he is optimistic about the team’s future.

“The success of our teams in the world tournament this year sets the bar for future years,” McQuillan said. “Our seniors almost made it into the breakout rounds, and I hope that our team will be able to match that success.”

The team’s other co-president, David Zhang ’17 agreed.

“To go to worlds in their junior and senior years has always been one of the things that Amherst debaters look forward to the most,” Zhang said. “It is an incredibly eye-opening and educational experience. I think the success this year definitely motivates our team members to become better.”