Amira Abdulkadir ’14 and Anna Dorman ’14 recently competed in the U.S. Universities National Debate Championships held at the University of La Verne, advancing to semifinals. The pair was one of the top eight teams in the country, beating teams from Harvard, Yale, Bates, Kings College and Cornell.
The competition also marked the first time that two HWS teams have made it into the elimination rounds at the national competition, underscoring the team’s continued development. Yiqun “Ted” Cheng ’13 and Emma Lowenberg ’13 made an impressive showing, advancing to quarterfinals before falling to the eventual finalists Yale and Loyola Marymount, and members Scott Davis ’15, Adrian Devuyst ’15, Emily Saeli ’16 and Danny Schonning ’16 also gave strong performances.
“It is very difficult to even qualify for elimination rounds at Nationals, which start in Octo-finals,” says Eric Barnes, debate team coach and associate professor of philosophy. “To have both teams make it to quarter-finals and one team make it all the way to semis was just amazing.”
Topics Abdulkadir and Dorman covered during the debate included nuclear weapons in North Korea, the constitution of new democracies and whether they should include a separation of church and state, the legitimacy of violence used by feminist vigilante groups and establishing a global market for citizenship.
The pair spent weeks preparing for the competition, and in the end, their strength came from the point where training met with knowledge gained from coursework. “Debate often gives us an opportunity to draw on knowledge from our classes,” explains Abdulkadir. “At quarterfinals, we used Yemen as a case study because we took the Yemen Seminar this semester with Assistant Professor Stacey Philbrick Yadav, and we knew so much more than our counterparts.”
However, the highlight of the competition was engaging on a national level. “I always love debating, and spending a weekend getting to debate at a high level is always a lot of fun,” says Dorman. “The best part of the competition is always when we completely click as a team and know we are absolutely doing our best.”
“What most people don’t know is that it took the judges 45 minutes to decide whether HWS or Yale, who eventually claimed the National title, would go on to finals – normally, it takes about 15,” explains Barnes. “I am exceptionally proud of them and the whole team.”
With this year’s success, Dorman was ranked the 20th best speaker in the country, and Abdulkadir secured the 45th best speaker out of 320 total debaters, the pair is looking toward the future. “We are really excited for next year – and this year’s competition only made me more dedicated and excited for next season,” explains Dorman.
In addition, Abdulkadir and Dorman recently had success at the Colgate University debate tournament, advancing past debaters from Queen’s University, McGill University, Duke, and the University of Toronto to make it to the final round. The two also represented the Colleges at the 33rd World Universities Debating Championship in Berlin.