There’s no debating it – Hobart and William Smith are taking the college debating circuit by storm. The latest place that the Colleges made their mark was Amherst, Massachusetts during the UMass Debate Tournament on Jan. 30. At the competition, HWS placed first in the tournament after debating duo Gerald “Buzz” Klinger ’12 and David Hernandez ’09 left their competition speechless.
Earning first place in four out of the six preliminary British Parliamentary style debates, the pair was able to secure a spot in the elimination rounds. In the final round, their tactful argument in favor of, “prohibiting the embedding of journalists in military units,” accelerated the two into first place glory against teams from RIT, St. John’s and Cornell.
“The team from St. John’s, which was our main competitor of the three other teams, gave what sounded like a good extension,” explained Klinger, a first-year, referring to their opposition’s role of rebutting, summarizing and extending their side’s argument.
“As the first speaker on the second team for the government side of the debate, I had to rebut St. John’s extension,” Hernandez said. “My main rebuttal was that there was no extension of the argument, it was basically the same argument as the first team to speak on their side.”
When the last word was said and the debate came to a close, the HWS team wasn’t so sure who had come out on top. “It took an hour for them to make their final decision when it typically takes 20 to 30 minutes,” Hernandez said. “But we found out afterward that what largely drew the decision out was deciding who had come in second and third and not who placed first and second.”
“David gave one of the best crystallizations I’ve ever heard him make,” said Eric Barnes, debate team coach and assistant professor of philosophy.” Buzz also made a great ‘extension’ by adding a new argument for their side, in addition to those that had already been presented.
So what’s this debate duo’s secret? “We balance each other out really well,” Hernandez explained. “I approach debate from a more philosophic and theoretical perspective while Buzz keeps things much more grounded and practical. It’s also helpful that we get along really well and can make jokes with each other.”
In addition to the way that these two debaters mesh, there’s a special kind of bond between the entire debate team. “The team is great for bringing academically solid students together from across disciplines and allowing us to share our ideas, add to one another’s perspectives and, of course, debate,” Hernandez said.
At the UMass tournament, Hernandez and Klinger also earned accolades with fifth place and ninth place individual awards, respectively. Joining them at the tournament were John Monaghan ’11, Will McConnell ’12, Ben Kress ’10 and Ross Hicks ’11 – all of whom battled hard against some of the best debaters in the league. Monaghan and first-timer McConnell came very close to securing a spot in the elimination rounds.
Under Barnes’ guidance, the team has had much success in the past. This past December Barnes accompanied Hernandez and teammate Daniel Thorson ’09 to Ireland to compete in the World University Debating Championships. In 2007 the pair was also semifinalists in the U.S. Universities National Tournament in Portland, Oregon. The team gained international recognition in April of 2008 when they hosted an international tournament which attracted the attention of the IDEA-USA (International Debate Education Association).
Barnes joined the faculty in 2004 and earned his Ph.D. and M.A. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and his B.A. from Hampshire College. His current scholarly interests include Moral Political and Legal Philosophy, Applied Ethics (particularly Bioethics) and Rational Choice Theory Debate. Prior to his professorship at the Colleges, Barnes has taught at Mount Holyoke College, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign.
Hernandez is a chemistry major who, after debating in high school, has continued his debate career throughout his time at HWS. During his four years at the Colleges, he has been an active member of the Latin American Organization (LAO) and the Hobart Student Government.
Klinger is a first-year who plans on triple-majoring in political science, public policy and economics. As an experienced debater from high school, his main extracurricular interest is the HWS Debate Team.
In addition to its presence at debate tournaments around the world, HWS will also make their presence known by hosting the Hobart and William Smith / IDEA Round-Robin debate tournament from April 10-11 on the Colleges’ campus. “Holding this tournament will certainly help to solidify our standing as a serious American college for debate,” Barnes explained. “It gives our team as well as the Colleges validation and worldwide cache for our strong debate program.”