Hobart and William Smith Colleges - HWS Debate Competes in Battle of the Bandwidth
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Debate for DU

HWS Debate Competes in Battle of the Bandwidth

In early May, HWS first-years William Koepp ’23 and Niima Sellah ’23 competed in a pop culture themed debate tournament called the Battle of the Bandwidth, while Assistant Debate Coach Marlene Pierce served as a judge, working alongside guest judge Douglas Reilly, Vice President of Lucas Film’s gaming department for a first round debate about Star Wars. The tournament was held online and featured four preliminary rounds of debate before the top eight teams advanced to a series of elimination rounds.

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William Koepp ’23 poses for a photo before competing in the tournament.

All the rounds at the tournament were pop culture themed and featured various TV shows and movies. Round topics included the ethics of pokeballs, the use of the force in Star Wars, video game subcultures, Batman’s vigilantism, the ethics of superheroes, and the wizard secrecy mandates in the Harry Potter universe.

For many members of the HWS Debate Team, the tournament was the first opportunity to compete since the Covid-19 pandemic forced the majority of in-person tournaments to shut down. Koepp and Sellah enjoyed participating and winning two of their debates. “Feeling the adrenaline of debating again made me forget about the quarantine for the time of a weekend,” Sellah says. Koepp agrees, “I wouldn’t want to spend my Saturday any other way.”

In the spirit of the tournament theme, participants were encouraged to dress in the style of their favorite TV show or fandom as they adjudicated and competed. Koepp dressed as the eleventh Doctor from popular BBC show Doctor Who and Pierce dressed as Syndrome from the Incredibles and, during another debate, as Carole Baskin from the hit Netflix show Tiger King. An independent panel of judges awarded Pierce the best dressed award on the final day of competition.

Pierce also judged the Open Grand Final. “It was incredibly cool to geek out over one of my favorite series while doing my favorite activity and have an expert in the subject area alongside me,” says Pierce, about the experience of judging alongside Douglas Reilly.

“We are very proud that the HWS Debate Team found a way to continue competing, even under these difficult circumstances. The silver lining to the online tournament was the international teams and judges who our students otherwise wouldn’t have had an opportunity to interact with.”

Assistant Coach Marlene Pierce poses in her winning costume.

Assistant Coach Marlene Pierce poses in her winning costume.

On May 23 and May 24, HWS Debate hosted another online tournament with teams and judges competing from around the world. Pierce served as one of the three Chief Adjudicators and Liam Sullivan ’20 as one of two Equity Officers. Coach and Professor of Philosophy Eric Barnes and Club President Reed Herter ’22 ran the tabulation for the tournament.

In the above photograph, the HWS Debate Team gathers for a photo before competing at Cornell University in multiple tournaments, including the Cornell IV, the Novice National Championships and Spanish Nationals.