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Bard Debate Union Ends Stellar Season on High Note

Students and faculty at the Bard Network Debate Conference in St. Petersburg.
The Bard Debate Union ended a stellar season on a high note, with its best national championship performance in program history. Hosted by Stanford University, this year’s nationals welcomed over 230 two-person teams from more than 40 colleges and universities from across the country. Nathaniel Carlsen ’18 and Hannah Hutchinson ’19 ended the tournament as octafinalists, tying for 17th place overall, after debating in an octafinal round about whether or not the International Monetary Fund should pay reparations for past wrongs. Meanwhile, the first-year team of Hadley Parum ’21 and Gordon Stearns ’21 advanced through novice quarterfinals and semifinals, ending the tournament tied for second-place novice team in the country, after debating in an all-star novice final round against teams from Columbia University, Yale University, and the University of Chicago on the topic of the ethics of having children in the 21st century. 

During their 2017–18 season, the Bard team attended 12 tournaments in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Russia. In addition to many individual speaker awards, the Bard Debate Union won three tournaments as a team, including the season opener at the University of Rochester, the George Washington Inter-Varsity Tournament, and the North American Women’s and Gender Minorities Debate Championship at the University of Vermont. The team advanced to top elimination rounds at six other tournaments, including those at Hart House in Toronto, Yale, University of Vermont, Cornell University, King’s College, and Smolny College in St. Petersburg, Russia. Bard College also hosted four public debates on its Annandale-on-Hudson campus. There was a Hannah Arendt Center debate with the United States Military Academy at West Point on the resolution “Resolved: representative democracy has failed,” a Family Weekend Roundtable on “Trump and American Foreign Policy,” a Martin Luther King Day Civic Engagement Debate on political protest and civil disobedience, and a Spring Public Debate on bringing controversial speakers to college campuses. 

Making connections with debate teams throughout the Bard Network—including Al-Quds Bard, American University of Central Asia (AUCA), Bard College Berlin (BCB), European Humanities University (EHU), and Smolny College—intranetwork online debates allowed teams to debate across continents in real time. The resolutions of this season’s two virtual debates were: “This house opposes the privatization of water” and “This house believes that governments should set up, support, and fund state-backed media organizations with the aim of providing impartial, balanced news.” Bard Debate Union Codirectors Ruth Zisman and David Register also organized and hosted the Second Bard Network Debate Conference at Smolny College this March, where they were joined by two students and one faculty/staff member from each of the Bard Network campuses (Al-Quds Bard, AUCA, BCB, EHU, and Smolny College) for two days of lectures, workshops, and debates, culminating in participation in the St. Petersburg Open Debate Tournament.

Inspiring and mentoring younger debaters, members of the Bard Debate Union continue to work with local school districts as well as the Bard Early Colleges to help create and build debate programs. This past November, the Bard team hosted a debate workshop for area high school students and teachers focused on starting debate clubs, recruitment, and debate training tools and skills. Then in March, the team hosted the Seventh Annual Middle and High School Debate Tournament, which involved four local high schools, two local middle schools, and seven Bard Early Colleges. The tournament covered three resolutions: “Individuals should be required to pass a civics test in order to vote”; “The United States Federal Government should provide no-cost higher education for all American citizens”; and “Artificial intelligence will do more harm than good.”

“We absolutely love hosting the middle and high school tournament each year,” says Zisman, “as this gives our students the opportunity to serve as teachers and mentors to younger students and to see the possibilities and powers of debate far beyond their own competitive success.”

Finally, David Register continues the work of building debate in the Bard Prison Initiative. The Bard Prison Initiative (BPI) Debate Union, now famous for defeating Harvard in a public debate in fall 2015, held two public debates this year, one against Morehouse College on race-based affirmative action and another against West Point on the nationalization of water resources. They were victorious in both of this year’s debates, bringing their overall win-loss record to 7–2. 

“Overall,” says Ruth Zisman, “the Bard Debate Union is working to reconceptualize the role and function of debating on the college campus—to see debate as not only about competition and personal growth but also about civic engagement and global citizenship, about making connections, engaging our community, and working on the skills necessary to be leaders in the 21st century.”

More about international campuses in the Bard Network
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Post Date: 05-01-2018