The Bellevue College Speech and Debate team recently won first place in the Junior Division at a tournament at the University of Oregon. The competition was held from Feb. 27 to March 1. Two BC students, Emily Merrill and Joshua Shepherd, won the sixth speaker and eighth speaker titles, respectively.
Emily Merrill joined the debate team at the beginning of the 2015 Winter quarter because she found debate interesting and had friends on the team who encouraged her to check it out.
“People on the debate team care about what is going on in the world,” Merrill said, “It’s a very intellectual thing.”
Merrill also mentioned that there are many types of debate, and that NPDA and IPDA are the main ones that the BC team participates in. NPDA refers to the National Parliamentary Debate Association, and IPDA stands for the International Public Debate Association. She described IPDA debate as a type judged more casually, while NPDA is formal. IPDA is less procedural, and debates deal with topics that are more commonly known.
Merrill said that debate is not just arguing, but a game with rules, that debate involves strategy and creativity, and that it changes how you think and argue. When it comes to NPDA debate, a more technical, informative, theory-driven approach is necessary, which Merrill says makes efficiency in delivering arguments important.
“You learn to talk fast,” said Merrill.
“There’s a lack of knowledge about the program,” said BC Speech and Debate coach Jim Hanson. According to Hanson, nine students are participating on the debate team this quarter. Hanson encourages students to participate in an upcoming on-campus event, from April 7-9, where they can learn more about the debate team and watch the Bellevue College team compete with other colleges.
BC’s team placed first in three of the last four tournaments, and at the fourth tournament, held at Whitman College, members Ben Griego and Teague Crenshaw won second place in the Junior Division NPDA Debate.
The BC team is also in second place overall for Division III debate, for which they have earned a Presidential award.
Competitions have three divisions that typically compete in separate brackets. The divisions are classified by amount of experience, those in their first year of competion are usually classified as novices. However, winning competitions has advanced even the newer members on BC’s team, such as Merrill, to the Junior Division.
Hanson said that debate is a great way to learn about different perspectives, and that although competitions can get heated, competitors tend to be respectful of each other. “The vast majority of debates are not personal,” said Hanson, who added that debate is a lot of fun, especially for those who like dialogue and discussion.
“It’s such a fun game,” said Merrill, “I love it.”
Denise Vaughan, who has coached the debate team at Bellevue for seven years said, “I am honored to work with students during a time of such growth, and honored to witness their personal and academic growth.”
The BC Speech and Debate team is set to compete in an IPDA tournament in Boise, ID, in the junior division from March 26-29.