The Bellevue College Speech and Debate Club, which won its first national title in March of last year, hosted this year’s Northwest Parliamentary Speech and Debate Warm-up Tournament. Faculty advisor for both Bellevue College and UW-Bothell’s team, Denise Vaughan, said upwards of 70 teams ended up competing in the competition, six of them composed of BC students.
The competition, held the weekend of the Sept. 22, hosted schools from as far away as Texas and California. The region represented by this tournament includes Alaska, Washington, Idaho, Oregon, and Montana.
When asked about how they expected to fare prior to the event, the team was very optimistic. “We are number one in our region” said Vaughan. Not only is BC’s team the top Third Division team in the region, but is actually in the top 20% of all intercollegiate debate teams nationally, ranking alongside many Ivy-league schools. Though not winning the tournament, BC’s team competed strongly and beated most of their challenging competitors.
Pratishtha Chhabra, the one student awarded a debate scholarship in the region and BC’s debate club president remarked that their club is very accepting of anyone and everyone who takes interest in the sport. “Anybody who wants to join, we’re open!” said Chhabra. According to Denise Vaughan, the faculty advisor for the debate team, between 30% and 40% of the team is composed of non-native speakers.
Topics to be discussed and debated during the tournament will include motions such as “The US Congress should implement the Dream Act, the Democrat’s ‘Conceptual Proposal for Immigration Reform,’ and/or the 6th step of Gingrich’s proposal for legal status for currently undocumented people in the United States,” “The United States Federal Government should extend and/or expand the Violence Against Women Act” and “The United States federal government should substantially increase protections against cyber-terrorism and/or cyber-warfare in the United States.”
While the issues are serious ones being debated all the way up in the top levels of national government, former president and captain-elect Stephanas Pizelo joked that most of the debates end up describing alternate apocalyptic worst-case scenarios. “A lot of the time it comes down to probability, timeframe, and magnitude,” he said. “Sometimes it comes down to which side will end the world fastest.”
In one debate between BC and St. Mary’s College from California, the subject of the Violence Against Women Act came down to predictions of dehumanization and genocide against the American Indians, versus claims of global dehumanization and starvation in Africa, resulting from economic disaster originating with the act.
Despite their competitive reputation, students of the club say that they get along well with other schools, even studying alongside and socializing regularly with UW-Bothell’s team. “We’re a pretty tight-knit community” says Chhabra. “We’re open, but we’re all good friends.” Any students who want to learn more about or participate in the debate team are encouraged to contact Denise Vaughan at email@example.com, or visit the team’s Facebook page.