BC speech and debate prepare for Oregon State University

past debate competors
Past BC winners Emily Merrill, left, and Teague Crenshaw, right. Alyssa Brown / The Watchdog

On Feb. 18-19, Bellevue College’s Speech and Debate Society will attend the 11th Annual Earl Wells Memorial Speakeasy at Oregon State University.

Tony Penders, Bellevue College’s debate coach, said that members of the debate team can “compete in individual events, like one person against other people from other schools.” Penders also said that members can also compete in team debates, “two persons against two persons from other schools” and “one-on-one debate, one person against one person from another college.”

The Earl Wells Memorial Speakeasy will have debaters discussing current events and politics, which is the usual topic for debate tournaments. “We will be debating the cabinet choices the president has made. I guarantee we will be debating relationships with China over trade and over the South China Sea,” said Penders. He added that “relationships with Russia, particularly the future of NATO” and “the future of ACA, the Affordable Care Act” will be likely topics at the tournament.

At the tournament, there will be a debate schedule that lists who each person is debating with and in what room their debate will take place in. When each student is in their respective room with another student, they are presented with five debate choices to choose from.  After one is chosen, both people have 30 minutes to prepare for the debate. “You debate six other debaters over the course of the weekend so it’s incredibly stressful,” mentioned Penders.

Debate generally is “training for futures lawyers, politicians, or future educators.”

“The judging is done by third parties. Basically, employees from third, other colleges,” said Penders. Penders coaches at Bellevue College, but can also be a judge between other universities since he’d have an objective, fair opinion. This tournament, like every other, will have this system to enforce fairness.

“I think one of the great things about debate and one of the reasons I love it so much is that you don’t have to be fantastic to get all of the benefits,” said Penders. “You can be terrible at debate and still learn how to organize an argument and think through an argument and learn that an argument has parts.” “Anybody, no matter how much you’re into it, you get a ton of the benefits from it.”

“We compete division one, we don’t compete with other community colleges. We can debate Harvard, we can debate Emory, Georgetown,” said Penders. “We can debate anyone in the country. We can debate against them evenly. We beat them. We’re really good.” Of the three debate coaches leading the Speech and Debate Society, all of them have won national championships.

So far this year, the team has traveled to the University of Washington Bothell, Louis and Clark University in Oregon, and Linfield University in Oregon. After Oregon State University, the team will go to nationals in Pensacola, Florida.

The Speech and Debate Society is dedicated to building speaking and debating skills in students through learning research, current events, and arguing. Participating in tournaments allow for a hands-on experience for written and oral presentation and expression. More information on joining is on the Bellevue College website.