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MIT Debate Team Places Well at World Competition

BySanjay Basu

Continuing its tradition of success at the World Universities Debating Championship, the MIT Debate Team placed among the top teams in both the United States and the world once again this past winter.

Beating debate teams from universities including Princeton, Yale, Brown, and Stanford, the group took 6th place in the American division of the competition, the largest and most competitive tournament of its kind.

The championship, held in Manila, Phillipines, brought teams from around the globe to discuss issues ranging from international politics to ethics and art. Gary Li '00 and Amit Roy '01 represented the MIT team at the competition.

"It doesn't get any better than this," Li said. "The World Championships attract people who would normally be enemieslike India and Pakistan and lets them stand up and talk about issues peacefully. In no other competition do you have so many views from so many countries."

Many participate in competition

The World Championships attracted top teams from several Asian, European, and Arab nations. The teams engaged in Parliamentary-style debate, a form of argument between a "government" group and an "opposition" body. A different topic was designated for each round of the tournament.

"The subjects covered a range of international issues," Li said. "Some were very abstract, like the topic of whether art should be censored. Others were more political and grounded in current events one of the more interesting discussions was on the issue of whether the ASEAN should rally behind Anwar."

The debaters also delivered extemporaneous speeches about globalization and its effect on the poor, the potential for failure if Europe federalizes, and whether Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu '76 is effectively promoting the peace process.

"It's very difficult," Li said. "You really can't prepare ahead of time, because you don't know the topics and you have to give an extemporaneous speech on them. It really requires that you know what's going on in the world and that you have a clue about what might be in the New York Times each day. But it also requires that you think quickly on your feet."

Roy agreed, "MIT teaches students a lot about analysis and performance under pressure exactly what debate is about," he said.

Continuing a tradition of success

The MIT debate team has competed at the World Debate Championships for the past four years, placing among the top schools each time. This year, the team has won tournaments at Brown, Cornell, and Wellesley.

The team was revived in 1991 after suffering nearly a decade of inactivity during the 1980s. It now includes over forty members.

"We are a relatively small team," admitted Christina Chow '01. "But this is one of our strengths. Individual members get more attention and we form much tighter bonds as a team."

Last fall, the team held an open forum for speech and debate and later sponsored an Independent Activities Period workshop on public speaking.

"I think the Debate Team has really added to the MIT community," Li said. "With the continued support of the MIT administration and community at large, we hope to continue the MIT Debate Team's record of success well into the future."