Whitties tackle conflict in Middle East, score big during IM Debate

When most Whitties think of IM, they think of flying dodge balls, floating discs and blue t-shirts. One team that may be often overlooked is IM Debate, which holds three official events per year. The debating students at the annual tournament, held Thursday, Dec. 1, in the Hunter Foyer, ranged from first-years to seniors, from new debaters to seasoned veterans. All participants received a free shirt, $10 and free food: enough to interest any college student.  Each debate won by any individual was worth $10 additional prize money.

Credit: Chaoyu Li

IM debate at Whitman spans back to the 1950s and was reformed about 15 years ago. This program had a special importance to Former President Tom Cronin, who formed a separate budget to guarantee IM Debate’s survival at Whitman.  There are three divisions in IM Debate: inexperienced, intermediate, and experienced.  The event was run by Whitman’s Debate team, along with Professor of Forensics Jim Hanson. Each individual debate was judged by a member of the debate team.

Students participated in the debates for a variety of reasons.

“I took the 121 class, so I was required to do it, but debate is really fun. I love debating because it challenges my brain.” said first-year Lydia Kautsky, who competed in the experienced division.

“I always hear about how much fun debate is and how it helps people academically, and [this event] was totally relaxed and a great way to see if I liked it,”  said first-year Sayda Morales,

Morales, new to IM debate, reflected on her first experience. “[Debating] was a little stressful because I saw everyone else preparing and I don’t know any of the rules, so my first one was really good to jump into and learn the format.” The low-key setting allowed for newcomers such as Morales to learn about debate and give it a shot.

“The IM debate tournament is an awesome opportunity for students who aren’t usually active in the debate program to check it out,” said IM debate coordinator senior Olivia Kipper, a three-year veteran of IM debate.

Debaters took part in two debates, each about 20 minutes long.  Students flowed in and out of private rooms, returning always to the foyer, where they were greeted with a table full of snacks. The debaters were dressed casually; a few appeared nervous as they were assigned their debate opponents at the start of the event.

One key component of debate is researching the topic. This year’s topic was focused on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and whether or not Palestine should be accepted as a sovereign nation. The debaters varied on their amount of research time. While some prepare for hours before the debate, others do minimal preparation.

“I spent about 20 minutes reading it,” said Kautsky with a laugh.

Debating requires participants to quickly formulate their ideas to counter opponents’ statements. First-year Collin Smith described debate as a game: “[It's like] verbal chess, putting out a bunch of different moves and hoping that your opponent doesn’t respond.”

“[IM debate] also provides a glimpse of what debate is like if you’re interested in joining the team,” said Kipper. “Whitman students should give IM debate a try because it is a low-commitment, fun activity to participate in once or twice a year for a few hours in the afternoon.”

The next IM debate tournament will take place April 12th, 2012.




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