The St. Thomas University Debate Society is ready for the Atlantic Championships after winning second place at the Dalhousie University Invitational on Feb. 8 and 9.
The championships will take place at Memorial University from March 1 to 3. STU will be competing against St. Mary’s University, Dalhousie University, Mount Allison University and Memorial University. Representing STU are the president and vice-president of the Debate Society, second-year student Alexandre Silberman and first-year student Victoria Young.
“I’m confident that heading into it that we have the chance to do really well and stay as one of the better teams in the region,” Silberman said.
But the Debate Society wasn’t always confident.
First-year student and member Jessie Cross said the team was “burnt out” before their trip to Dalhousie because of stress, travel and back-to-back competitions. According to Cross, the team didn’t do well the previous year because they were still a new society and they didn’t have a lot of members with experience.
While they learned and improved from each competition, Young thinks the Dalhousie Invitational was what placed STU on the map.
“We were able to present ourselves as a really competitive team,” Young said. “It gives us the confidence going into the Atlantics.”
The competition was split into two days and consisted of five rounds, each based on the Canadian parliamentary system. Universities that participated included Memorial University, Mount Allison University, Saint Mary’s University and Dalhousie University, which hosted the competition.
Cross and Sayan Chatterjee, a fourth-year student, went as judges while Silberman and Young represented STU as debaters.
As debaters, they took the role of the government or the opposition. As the government, they presented an idea and argued why it should be implemented. As the opposition, they poked holes in their opponent’s case and argued against why the policy shouldn’t be implemented.
Silberman and Young debated on topics ranging from banning hockey fights to how prisoners serving life sentences should be able to request the death penalty.
As the government, they had 15 minutes to prepare their case while the opposition were sequestered. The opposition would learn the topic once the prime minister spoke, and had to come up with an argument on the spot during the government’s seven-minute speech.
“Part of the fun is kind of just going with whatever’s thrown at you,” Young said.
Silberman and Young were one of the few teams who won both rounds they competed in on the first day. Their winning streak carried over to the next day when they won each round leading up to the finals. The team was awarded second place — the first win the STU Debate Society has earned since their revival in 2017.
Cross also placed third in her round of public speaking.
Silberman views these competitions as a bonding experience for him and his teammates.
“These are all really fun times, just being together as a team,” Silberman said.
“It’s more than just a competition.”