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Bard College Debate Union Hosts Second Annual Middle and High School Debate Tournament

Students from Red Hook, Rhinebeck, Kingston, and Bard High School Early Colleges Compete in World-Schools-Style Debate Tournament

Eleanor Davis
Sam Gilbert, Red Hook High School  Image Credit: Eleanor Davis

ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y.—The Bard College Debate Union and the Bard Center for Civic Engagement hosted the second annual Middle and High School Debate Tournament at Bard College on Friday, March 1, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Bard College President Leon Botstein opened the tournament with an address to the enthusiastic young debaters. Bard Debate Union students, staff, and teachers from participating public schools presided as debate judges with eight schools fielding teams for the competition: Red Hook High School, Linden Avenue Middle School, Rhinebeck High School, Bulkeley Middle School, St. Joseph’s Middle School, and the Bard High School Early College (BHSEC) schools of Queens, Manhattan, and Newark. The tournament featured two full rounds of World-Schools Style Debate competition, luncheon, and an awards ceremony, followed by a public debate by the Bard Debate Union. 

This year’s topics for debate were titled “The Personal Possession of Handguns Should Be Outlawed in the United States” and “The Federal Government Should Require Two Years of Civil or National Service for All U.S. Citizens between the Ages of 18 and 24.” “We were thrilled to be hosting this second debate tournament and very pleased that the tournament has students from Red Hook, Rhinebeck and Kingston, as well as the Bard High School early colleges in New York City and Newark,” says Jonathan Becker, vice president and dean for international affairs and civic engagement. “We think that students will carry the skills they learn with them throughout their lives. Now that we are in our second year, we can call it an annual tournament.” 

Bard Debate coaches Ruth Zisman and David Register, along with Bard Debate Union members Lee Gensler, Hanze Song, and Ian Busher, have been working with students and faculty at the participating schools to organize and train debate teams. “Most debaters who are competing at the collegiate level are very focused on self improvement and competition, which is natural,” says Zisman. “For the Bard debate students doing the outreach in the local schools, being involved in these programs reminds them of the values of debate; of the importance of teaching, listening, and communicating. They love working with the younger students.” 

The first of these local Bard-sponsored debate programs began in winter 2011, when Bard student Radley Glasser was able to obtain sponsorship through the Bard Trustee Leader Scholar Program and the Bard Center for Civic Engagement to start a debate club at Red Hook’s Linden Avenue Middle School. Red Hook Central School District, working with the Red Hook Education Foundation, embraced the opportunity, and the club was immediately popular with middle school students. “Bard deserves all the credit for getting these debate programs going,” said James Armstrong, Red Hook social studies teacher and Linden Avenue debate coach. “The Bard students have been wonderful, bringing enthusiasm and encouragement to my students.”

Dr. Seth Halvorson of the Bard College High School Early College (BHSEC) in Newark, New Jersey, said “This is the second time the BHSECs have competed as a unified team at the Bard College Debate Tournament. Traveling up to the campus, meeting, and working with students from all three BHSECs is a highlight of our year. Bard’s support for debate activities stems from a deep commitment to civic engagement. Participation in the tournament has been a important factor in increasing the interest in debate at our school and is a matter of school pride.”

The secondary school programs have proved so popular that the number of students participating in this year’s debate competition at Bard has doubled since the first tournament was held in March 2012, reaching a total of 80 students from eight schools, with 21 teams competing in middle and high school categories. Team and speaker awards were given as follows:

High School Team Awards

First place: BHSEC C (Priya Dieterich, Deep Dave, Sabrina Valponi); second place: Red Hook B (Sam Gilbert, Joe Bryant, Templeton Kay); third place: Rhinebeck A (Carolyn Goldstone, Isabella Romano, Craig Pavord); fourth place: BHSEC A (Hannah Frishberg, Mojique Tyler, Kasper Moczulski); and fifth place: BHSEC E (Isaiah Back-Gall, Afua Anochi, Eyanjem Etta Ashu).

High School Speaker Awards

First place: Templeton Kay (Red Hook); second place: Caroline Goldstone (Rhinebeck); third place: Hannah Frishberg (BHSEC Manhattan); fourth place: Eliza Fawcett (BHSEC Manhattan); fifth place: Sabrina Valponi (BHSEC Queens); sixth place: Caleb Wootan (Red Hook); seventh place: Mojique Tyler (BHSEC Manhattan); eighth place: Eyanjem Etta Ashu (BHSEC Newark); ninth place: (BHSEC Manhattan); and tenth place: Priya Dieterich (BHSEC Manhattan).

Middle School Team Awards

First place: Red Hook A (Emily Shein, Natalie Hayes); second place: Red Hook B (Jacob Ostfeld, Hadley O'Connor, Ally McCrudden); third place: Red Hook D (Alex Gonella, Patrick O'Shea, Doug Appenzeller); fourth place: St. Joseph’s C (Jair Mautone, Abigail Frank, Patrick Watzka); and fifth place: Red Hook E (Tom Bloxham, Joseph Shaw).

Middle School Speaker Awards

First place: Jacob Ostfeld, Red Hook; second place: Emily Shein, Red Hook; third place: Ally McCrudden, Red Hook; fourth place: Abigail Frank, St. Joseph’s; fifth place, Natalie Hayes, Red Hook; sixth place, Michelle Moughan, St. Joseph’s; seventh place: Tom Bloxham, Red Hook; eighth place: Zachary Wesolowski, St. Joseph’s; ninth place: Jair Mautone, St. Joseph’s; and tenth place, Adam Dachenhausen, St. Joseph’s.

(Bulkeley Middle School sent students to observe and did not compete in this year’s tournament.)


The Bard Debate Union, founded in 2004, is committed to promoting the values of debate throughout the Bard College community and the greater Hudson Valley region of New York. Since 2004, Bard Debate Union has competed at the highest levels of both CEDA/NDT policy debate and WUDC/BP worlds debate, traveling every year to numerous intercollegiate debate tournaments at colleges and universities throughout the United States. Among their most recent successes, the Bard Debate Union parliamentary debate team won the Adelphi Debate Tournament in Garden City, New York, February 16 and 17. The Bard Debate Union also hosts several public debates, debate workshops, and lectures (all open to the public) every semester, and is involved in several outreach projects in the local Red Hook school district, the Bard High School Early Colleges, and the Bard Prison Initiative.


For more information about the Bard Debate Union contact Ruth Zisman, faculty adviser, at or visit the website,

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March 1, 2013


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This event was last updated on 03-03-2013