Debate Society Places Fourth in National Tournament
By Kevin Wu '12, News Section Editor
Arguing and refuting their way to the top, Amherst’s Nic Zhou ’10 and Smith’s Lily Lamboy ’10 represented the College Debate Society by finishing fourth at this year’s National Championship Tournament at Swarthmore College. This marks the first time the Debate Society has reached the semi-finals of a national tournament since the early ’90s.

Competing against 70 other teams, the duo was originally seeded 10th after winning four of the preliminary rounds and losing two. Zhou and Lamboy fell 6-1 in the semi-finals against Johns Hopkins A, last year’s finalists and the eventual winner of this year’s tournament. The decisive round’s matter of contention was whether Egypt should have banned the Muslim Brotherhood from competing in the 2005 presidential elections.

Most of the debaters invited to attend had qualified by reaching at least one final round in a regular tournament during the season, which spans from September to April. Nationals represents the culmination of the 35 or so tournaments that are held during this time. It consists of six preliminary rounds plus break rounds.

Zhou is satisfied with his team’s performance, considering how especially competitive the tournament was this year.

“Overall it was a very successful national tournament, since the Class of 2010 was one of the strongest the circuit has had recently. This national tournament had two former national champions, two former North American champions and numerous other very decorated debaters taking part, making up an extremely competitive field. It was a good finish to a four-year career on the debate circuit, and a significant improvement over last year, when we made the round of 16 at Nationals and got knocked out there (also by the eventual national champions).”

The Zhou-Lamboy team has emerged as the sixth best team on the circuit after a very successful year, having made finals at Harvard, MIT and Stanford and semi-finals at Princeton and the University of Chicago.

Lilia Kilburn ’12, who shared in the rigor and excitement of Nationals with teammate Andreas Shepard ’11, is likewise proud of the College’s strong showing in this year’s tournament.

“Nationals is quite different from regular-season tournaments in that the quality of competition, judging and entertainment are much higher, which makes it really fun to attend. My partner Andreas and I debated such topics as whether the ICC should indict the Pope, whether universities should be able to patent discoveries they make with the aid of federal money and whether the US should conditionalize defense aid to Israel.”

Although the departure of seniors Zhou and Lamboy marks a great loss for the College’s Debate Society, Kilburn remains confident in the team and its future.

“Nic and Lily are clearly the patriarch and matriarch of the team, so we’ll be sad to see them go — but our team will definitely remain strong,” said Kilburn. “The Amherst team is well respected on the circuit for our ability to run a scarily efficient tournament every April, and I only predict good things for us.”

Although the Society’s standing this year slipped to ninth from the eighth place position it had held at the end of last year’s circuit, it remains the best club among those of the liberal arts colleges, and it ranks above those of a majority of the top universities.

The championship tournament was hosted by the American Parliamentary Debate Association (APDA), which comprises over 50 member schools and hundreds of debaters. Founded in 1981, it brought together debate societies and organized a league for parliamentary debate on the national level. Anywhere from 25 to 160 teams may participate in two day tournaments that are held weekly. Often, several tournaments are held on a single weekend in acknowledgement of the geographic diversity of the students hailing from APDA member schools. Every September, the APDA hosts a Novice Tournament, intended to initiate new debaters into the APDA through seminars, demonstrations and competitions.

The first tournament to receive APDA sanction as Nationals, held in 1981 at the University of Chicago, was won by Amherst.

Issue 24, Submitted 2010-04-28 02:56:57