Steven Penner and Gerald “Buzz” Klinger ’12, two distinguished members of HWS’ nationally competitive debate team, have captured the prestigious Hart House IV Championship. Hosted by the University of Toronto, the competition is one of the largest intercollegiate debating tournaments in North America.
“There are just a handful of world-class debate tournaments, and for as long as I can remember, Hart House has been among the best of these,” says Associate Professor of Philosophy Eric Barnes, director of the HWS Debate Team. “It’s the sort of victory that one remembers for a lifetime.”
To win the competition, Penner and Klinger beat a field of 100 teams. Additionally, the duo swept individual honors. Klinger bested 160 speakers to take first place as the top speaker, only slightly ahead of Penner, who finished second.
Both Penner and Klinger had decided beforehand that the Hart House IV would be their final competition, and the victory was a capstone on two excellent debating careers. Penner, who will continue to serve HWS Debate in his role as assistant coach, won the Canadian National Championships in both Canadian and British Parliamentary debate formats in the 2010-11 academic year. Klinger reached elimination rounds at the 2012 World Championship in Manila and was selected as one of nine judges at the World Championships this year. A national champion himself, he was an integral part of the HWS team that was named 2012 United States Universities Debate Champions.
“It felt like a perfect place for my debate career to come full circle,” Klinger says. “Hart House was the first big international tournament that I attended back in 2008, and it would be fair to say that it was place where I became firmly enmeshed in college debating.”
The victory is the latest success for HWS Debate, which received attention earlier this fall when it welcomed more than 300 collegiate debaters from across North America for the inaugural HWS Intervarsity Debate Tournament, the largest debate event in the history of the Colleges.
In addition to the fall tournament, each spring HWS Debate hosts the International Round Robin Debate Tournament, the most elite debate tournament in the world. The 2016 event featured collegiate debate teams from about 20 countries ranging from Singapore and Sweden to Malaysia and South Africa.
For the HWS Debate Team, the 2015-2016 academic year was marked by a series of successful tournament appearances. HWS won both the Brad Smith Invitational at the University of Rochester and Cornell Inter-Varsity tournaments. They also advanced teams to the elimination rounds at Yale IV and the National Championships, and they had a team in the final round of the highly competitive Colgate Open.