After spending about 170 minutes speaking, which is equivalent to six semesters of public speaking, several IU students have won awards for their performances in the Hoosier Invitational Debate Tournament.
The Hoosier Invitational Debate Tournament is an annual competition comprised of a series of debates, all focusing on one central theme or topic, director of debate Brian DeLong said.
Along with IU, many other universities in the country competed, including the University of Michigan, Samford University, the University of Kentucky and the University of Georgia.
The tournament was re-established six years ago, he said. Previously, there had been no national debates at IU for 10 years, until a group of undergraduate students revived the tournaments.
This year, the debate topic was whether or not the United States military should still have influence and presence in a wide variety of areas throughout the world. The debate particularly focuses on places like Japan, northern Africa and the Arab States of the Persian Gulf where it previously had profound military influence, DeLong said.
The two sides to the debate are the affirmative and the defendants. The former has to explain why they believe the presence of the military should reduced, IU freshman and debater Jill Wooton said, as well as formulate a plan of how they can reduce.
She said the latter has to explain why they think the current status-quo should be maintained, and support it with evidence of how military presence is necessary..
“It really improves your listening skills,” she said.
Before the tournament begins, students prepare diligently, some even taking debate classes, DeLong said. On account of their dedication, he refers to them as “academic athletes.”
“These students have been prepping 20 to 30 hours a week,” he said.
Each student has spent about 170 minutes just speaking. This is the equivalent of six semesters of public speaking in just one debate tournament.
However, the debates held in the Hoosier Invitational Debate Tournament are not the ones that one typically sees on television or in front of a massive audience.
This is in part due to a general lack of interest to hear the same arguments multiple times early in the morning.
DeLong said that national debates typically have a different style to them than smaller tournaments.
Students are only given nine minutes to speak during a debate. In order to convey a large amount of information in the allotted time, they have to speak at an almost-incomprehensible speed.
To accommodate this style of public speaking, DeLong said judges from across the nation had been specially-trained to hear what is being said. He said that several of the judges have PhDs, and that all of them experts of argumentation.
While some of these judges are IU graduates, he said the majority of them come from other universities.
Among the approximately 500 total teams debating this year, he said, about 40 IU students are competing.
Two of these teams were able to break through the elimination rounds this year and are on their way to be one of the top 80 debate teams in the country, DeLong said.
“It’s quite an accomplishment,” he said.
One of the winners was IU freshman Stanley Njuguna, who received third place in the novice division. He said he has always been interested in debating and began doing so competitively once he came to IU.
“Something like that, with such high intellectual standards, is something I can get excited about,” he said.
Another winner was IU freshman Harry Aaronson, who received second place in the varsity division.
Aaronson said he has always loved debating and competed frequently since he was in high school.
“The team’s been really great,” he said. “We have all got along together, and it has been really fun.”
Along with Aaronson, junior Kegan Ferguson achieved the best record IU has ever had in regards to debating.
Students should participate in competitive debating because it can heighten a student’s academic ability, and be applicable in a wide range of fields DeLong said.
“When you graduate someone, you want them to have research, thinking, argumentative and listening abilities,” he said.