The Williams debate team defended its pride at the American Parliamentary Debating Association National Championships held at Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, Penn. during the weekend of April 14-16. Two teams from the College competed against about 60 two-person teams from schools around the country.
The two teams – debate team co-captains Chris Kemmitt ’01 and Josh Kelner ’01 and novices Mike Pinkel ’03 and Joe Gallagher ’03 – both finished the preliminary rounds of the tournament with solid records but did not make it to the round-robin that decides the winner. However, there were many highlights for the Williams debaters in the three-day event: Pinkel was named “Novice of the Year,” Kelner came in eighth for “Speaker of the Year” and the Kemmitt/Kelner team beat this year’s “Team of the Year” in the preliminary rounds.
“Nationals was a thrill,” Pinkel said, “because you’re going up against the best teams in the country.”
Kelner described his experience at Nationals: “I really like the challenge of competing at Nationals. Most of the teams there are very good, so the tournament is a good opportunity to have some really competitive rounds.Â It’s actually a lot of fun.”
Parliamentary debating is an informal style of debate that pits a two-person government team versus a two-person opposition team in each round. The government team must introduce a bill and support it, and the opposition attempts to refute the arguments of the bill promoters. The round is awarded to the more persuasive team.
The national competition consisted of six preliminary rounds, followed by a single elimination round robin of eight teams to decide the champion. A duo from Princeton University took the championship.
Pinkel’s crowning as “Novice of the Year” is a “big deal,” according to Kelner. “They just started giving out ‘Novice of the Year’ as an award three years ago, and this is the first time anybody from Williams has come in higher than fifth,” he said. “Mike really deserved the award. He was probably the best first-year debater I’ve seen since starting in the activity. He’s going to be really tough in the next few years.”
The award is based on the debater’s record from the entire year.
The success of this year’s Williams squad has not surprised anyone, according to Kelner. The debate team has done very well the past few years at Nationals, placing at least one speaker in the top ten, sending teams to the finals two of the past three years and finishing in the top four three years in a row.
The team, according to Kelner, has much to look forward to in the next few years. Kelner and Kemmitt are both juniors and will be an even stronger team next year, and Pinkel and Gallagher will be a force in years to come.