Debating online against a team from Kabul University, Afghanistan, was a thrill for two members of the Colgate Debate Society, but it was also a test of endurance.
“It’s such a fresh feeling to turn on Skype and find yourself with Afghan students from the other side of the globe debating views on whether the U.S. government should subsidize Wikipedia at 3 a.m. on a Thursday,” said Anna Proios ‘16. “I think our debate society is making great strides at becoming a part of this potentially world-changing project.”
Proios and Lorelai Avram ‘16 represented Colgate in the debate, and Alexa Windsor ‘13 was judge for a session between two other schools in a recent Debate Without Borders Skype Tournament.
“Because of the time difference, and some technical problems, the debate didn’t really get under way until about midnight,” said John Adams, Colgate Speaking Union coordinator.
And while late-night work is hardly uncharted territory for Colgate students in April, it was the first time speaking union members participated in the International Public Debate Association (IPDA) format, which is drastically different from their typical format of British Parliamentary Debate.
“The debaters had to engage in both constructive speeches and cross-examinations – a unique aspect of the IPDA style,” said Avram. “Furthermore, the tournament was an expository one, which eliminated a lot of the pressure, and made the debate more about the exchange of ideas, rather than about beating your opponent.”
While the Colgate team was not successful in lobbying for their assigned position of supporting government subsidy of Wikipedia, they took away some valuable lessons and a game plan for the next tournament April 25. Avram said they’ll be prepared to debate the entire night.
The tournament was sponsored by Afghans for Progressive Thinking, and included teams from China and Pakistan.
“We only lost by one point. Considering it was the very first time debating in that format, it was a great learning experience,” Adams said. “I think the Colgate Speaking Union groups perfectly exemplify the university’s commitment to living the liberal arts. Virtually everything they do brings their learning out of the classroom and into practice. It’s powerful stuff and their speaking adventures enable them to create better versions of themselves and their world.”