Hobart and William Smith Colleges recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of the International Round Robin Debate Tournament – the most elite debate tournament in the world. A unique opportunity to view world-class debate in action, the tournament was open to the public and held on Friday, April 1 and Saturday, April 2.
“It’s amazing to see the genuine clash of ideas that these students engage in, and how different it is from what passes for debate from our political leaders,” said Associate Professor of Philosophy Eric Barnes, director of the HWS Debate Team. “Especially in an election year, when people hear the word ‘debate,’ they think about presidential debates, which aren’t substantial debates that really explore both sides of an important issue.”
This year’s HWS Round Robin featured the most international field ever with the world’s best debaters and adjudicators arriving in Geneva from about 20 countries ranging from Singapore and Sweden to Malaysia and South Africa. Cambridge University, from Cambridge, England, took first place, followed by Tel Aviv University in second place. Finalists included a second team from Cambridge, and Yale University.
Other competitors included Harvard University, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, International Islamic University Malaysia, McGill University, Nanyang Technological University, Queen’s University, Stanford University, Stockholm University, Universiti Teknologi MARA, University of Toronto (two teams), and University of the Witwatersrand.
The Round Robin began with the first and second rounds on April 1, as well as a keynote address from noted scholar and internationally respected debate champion Adam Chilton, an assistant professor at The University of Chicago Law School. Chilton’s research focuses on using empirical methods to study international and comparative law. For example, many of his recent projects have studied whether constitutions and international treaties are effective at protecting human rights.
“Adam Chilton is a very impressive scholar and he was the top speaker and winner of the first Round Robin at the Colleges,” Barnes said.
HWS Debate Team member Danny Schonning ’16 said attending the tournament is the ideal way to watch collegiate debate. “The adjudicators and competitors are certain to be some of the most well-established and competitive that we have seen in my time at the Colleges,” Schonning said.
The HWS Debate Team recently had a series of tournament successes. At Cornell University, Schonning and Taylor Murray ’17 won the varsity division, with Schonning also winning the top individual speaker award and Murray winning the third place speaker award. Henry Wilson ’18 and Amanda Ngo ’19 made it to quarter-finals of the novice division. In all, HWS had about a dozen participants competing and judging as well.
HWS Debate was in the spotlight during the fall 2015, with exciting competitions at Yale, Bard College and University of Toronto. The team also hosted its sixth annual Fall Classic IV this past October. In 2012, Gerald “Buzz” Klinger ’12 and Will McConnell ’12 were named the United States Universities Debate Champions. Hosted at Williamette University in Salem, Ore., they placed first in the nation among 156 top-ranked teams.
About the Keynote Speaker:
Chilton received a B.A. and M.A. in political science from Yale, worked as a management consultant for the Boston Consulting Group, and earned a J.D. and Ph.D. in political science from Harvard.
Before entering academia, Chilton spent years participating in competitive debate. While competing in American Parliamentary Debate, Chilton won or was top speaker at numerous tournaments, and during his senior year won a record 70 consecutive American Parliamentary Debate Association (APDA) rounds. He is the only debater to have won all three of the APDA annual awards: Novice of the Year, Speaker of the Year, and Team of the Year.
While competing in British Parliamentary Debate, Chilton was the top speaker of the Oxford IV and the Cambridge IV, and reached the final round of the Oxford IV (which he won), the Cambridge IV, and the World University Debating Championships.