RUDU Hosts North Star Academy Speech Tournament

Members of North Star's speech and debate team who visited Rutgers gather after the tournament at the School of Communication and Information.
Members of North Star’s speech and debate team who visited Rutgers gather after the tournament at the School of Communication and Information.

On Saturday, May 10th, the Rutgers University Debate Union (RUDU) hosted the North Star Academy’s speech and debate team for a day of competition, workshops, and collaboration. The Newark high school recently started their team, which has tried many debate and speech events this season. The contingent that attended this event was comprised almost entirely of first-years and sophomores. This is one of several collaborations with high schools that RUDU has done, after public debate exhibitions at Trenton Central High School and at Point Pleasant Borough High School.

Kurt Falk, a member of RUDU from 2011-2012, is the Assistant Coach of the North Star Academy team and helped coordinate the event. The team’s Head Coach, Jessica Ehmke, was also in attendance. They were supported by numerous current and former RUDU members who helped run the event and served as judges of the speech competition.

The competition itself consisted of short 2-4 minute speeches that the North Star students had prepared and memorized for the event. All were on the topic of a key problem facing society, as chosen by the speaker. There were several preliminary rounds, followed by a break to semifinals (12 speakers) and then finals (6 speakers), resulting in awards for the top three.

Throughout the day, rounds of competition were interspersed with a speaking workshop run by Coach Storey Clayton, a demonstration round of parliamentary debate featuring four current and former RUDU debaters (said to be the favorite event by North Star attendees), and a presentation on Rutgers University by a student representative from the Admissions program. Judges also gave rigorous and extensive feedback to each speaker after each speech they delivered.

While all competitors spoke well and improved greatly throughout the day, the winners were selected by an aggregate vote of the 9-judge panel, one that featured three APDA National Finalists. Rebecca Davis was awarded 1st Place, Akira Caruth 2nd, and Andrea Hammond 3rd.

Ultimately, the event was a great opportunity for North Star students to visit a college campus and see the inner workings of a highly successful collegiate debate team while improving their skills and having fun.

North Star Academy's winning speakers from the May 10th event.  Left to right:  Akira Caruth (2nd), Rebecca Davis (1st), and Andrea Hammond (3rd).
North Star Academy’s winning speakers from the May 10th event. Left to right: Akira Caruth (2nd), Rebecca Davis (1st), and Andrea Hammond (3rd).

RUDU Featured at Rutgers Day 2014

Deepta Janardhan (standing, center) defends mandatory minimums in sentencing in a mini-round at Rutgers Day against Sean Leonard (seated, left).
Deepta Janardhan (standing, center) defends mandatory minimums in sentencing in a mini-round at Rutgers Day against Sean Leonard (seated, left).

The Rutgers University Debate Union (RUDU) was a key feature of the largest-ever Rutgers Day on Saturday, an open house for the university that drew over 84,000 people in total to the five campuses at Rutgers.

Many RUDU members spent all or part of the six-hour event in Center Hall in the Busch Campus Center, talking to prospective members of the team from both current Rutgers undergraduates and high schoolers as well as people from the community. The team also conducted eleven mini-debates on various topics, ranging from fracking to Ukraine to the privatization of space to the meaning of life itself.

Most of the debate topics were suggested by audience members who stopped by to meet the team, and two debates featured people from the community challenging RUDUers to debate them on topics of their choosing. The Daily Targum, Rutgers’ student newspaper, mentioned RUDU’s exhibitions at Rutgers Day in their article about the event.

Public Relations Chair Nick Hansen helped run and coordinate RUDU’s participation in Rutgers Day, its first time at the event since 2011.

RUDU will be holding several in-house events for the team to wrap up the year, including the annual 1-on-1 tournament and the Senior and Alumni Banquet to be held on Wednesday, May 7th.

Rutgers Breaks Two Teams at Swarthmore

The Rutgers contingent of competitors and judges at Swarthmore lines up after quarterfinals.  Left to right:  Sean Leonard, Russell Potter, Sarthi Tuli, Arbi Llaveshi, Storey Clayton, Henry Phipps, Alex Jubb, Zach Sinkiewicz, Lin Lan, Farhan Ali, George Alukal, Jason Boyle, Quinn Maingi, and Nick Hansen.  (Not pictured:  Deepta Janardhan)
The Rutgers contingent of competitors and judges at Swarthmore lines up after quarterfinals. Left to right: Sean Leonard, Russell Potter, Sarthi Tuli, Arbi Llaveshi, Storey Clayton, Henry Phipps, Alex Jubb, Zach Sinkiewicz, Lin Lan, Farhan Ali, George Alukal, Jason Boyle, Quinn Maingi, and Nick Hansen. (Not pictured: Deepta Janardhan)

The Rutgers University Debate Union (RUDU) made the elimination rounds for the seventh straight weekend on the American Parliamentary Debate Association (APDA) circuit, finishing 6th and 10th teams and inching closer to additional qualifications to the National Championships.

Here are the official results achieved by RUDU at Swarthmore, which broke to partial octofinals:
Sean Leonard & Nick Hansen – 6th Team
Henry Phipps & Alex Jubb – 10th Team
Sean Leonard – 3rd Speaker
Nick Hansen – 5th Novice Speaker

Additionally, Ashley Novak and her hybrid partner were in semifinals at the weekend’s other tournament at Boston University:
Ashley Novak & Shira Almeleh [Brandeis] – 3rd Team
Ashley Novak – 7th Speaker

Hansen now stands just half a point away from qualifying for Nationals, having come up just short in a 2-1 decision in quarterfinals with Leonard. Leonard’s 3rd speaker finish marked his fourth time in five tournaments where he has finished in the top seven speakers and the third time of those where he has been in the top three. With this surge, he now stands ranked 13th in APDA’s annual Speaker of the Year (SOTY) rankings for the season, and is second among sophomore debaters in the league.

Hansen, meanwhile, won a novice speaker award for the fourth straight tournament, all of them top five placings. He has risen back to twelfth overall in the Novice of the Year (NOTY) rankings with three weekends remaining in the season. Novak remains 9th ranked SOTY and has her sights on being the first Rutgers debater to finish the year in the top ten. The current record is held by Dave Reiss, who finished 14th in 2010-2011.

RUDU will be joining the rest of APDA at the Princeton University tournament this weekend, just down Route 1 from Rutgers. RUDU will be sending several teams in the hopes of adding to the five currently qualified debaters to attend Nationals, as well as improving on the sixth place standing the school has this year. Elections for the league’s Board will also be held.

Just before Princeton, RUDU will be conducting its biggest public debate of the semester, on whether Condoleezza Rice should be the 2014 Commencement Speaker at Rutgers. Well over 100 people are already slated to attend the debate, which will be held before the meeting of the Rutgers University Student Assembly (RUSA), to be followed by a RUSA vote on the resolution as debated. Arbi Llaveshi, Rachel Moon, and Sean Leonard will be speaking for the resolution and Daimler Vadlamuri, Russell Potter, and Deepta Janardhan will be speaking against. The speakers will not necessarily be representing their own views on the topic, as is typical in debate.

RUDU Wins German Debate, Discusses Food Deserts for BPSA

The logos for the Rutgers German Club and the Bloustein Public Service Association, who co-hosted two public debate exhibitions with RUDU this week.
The logos for the Rutgers German Club and the Bloustein Public Service Association, who co-hosted two public debate exhibitions with RUDU this week.

The Rutgers University Debate Union (RUDU) held two public debate events this week, on Monday the 10th and Wednesday the 12th. The former was a prize debate for the German Embassy, co-sponsored by the Rutgers German Club, the third in a series of debates about Germany’s role in Europe where RUDU has competed against other competitive academic organizations at the University. The latter was an event for the Bloustein Public Service Association (BPSA), who invited RUDU to discuss the topic of urban food deserts in an exhibition.

The German debate was part of an event hosted by the German Club to celebrate Karneval, the German equivalent of Mardi Gras. Four organizations were invited to compete in the debates, working toward an eventual final round and champion. RUDU faced the Rutgers University Association of International Relations (RUAIR) in the first debate, discussing the topic of whether the future would involve a more European Germany or a more Germany Europe, with RUDU defending the latter. Rutgers University Mock Trial (RUMTA) and Rutgers University Institute for Domestic and International Affairs (RUIDIA) squared off in a second debate about the same topic.

From that initial matchup, RUDU and RUAIR were chosen to rematch in the final round, this time with RUDU advocating that Germany should stop bailing out Greece and RUAIR opposing that notion. At the conclusion of the final, the panel of three faculty judges deemed RUDU to have won the debate and its top prize. RUDU was represented in this debate by Gordon Morrisette, Alex Jubb, and Vidhaath Sripathi.

Two days later, on Wednesday, four RUDU debaters squared off in a two-on-two exhibition at the BPSA meeting in Scott Hall on the topic of whether supermarkets should be subsidized in urban “food deserts,” or regions where it is hard to buy fresh food. Nick Hansen and Henry Phipps advocated the motion while Sean Leonard and George Alukal opposed it. Phipps also serves on the Executive Board of BPSA and helped coordinate the exhibition event.

RUDU’s next public debate will be hosted by the Rutgers University Student Assembly (RUSA), Rutgers’ undergraduate student government. This debate will involve six RUDU debaters in a 3-on-3 format discussing the controversial topic of whether the invitation to Condoleezza Rice to serve as 2014 Commencement Speaker at Rutgers should be withdrawn. The issue was first raised by the Faculty Council of Rutgers-New Brunswick, who drafted a resolution exhorting the administration to withdraw the invitation, citing Rice’s role in “efforts to mislead the American people about the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and the existence of links between al Qaeda and the Iraqi regime,” leading to war. RUSA is considering a similar resolution and will be voting on whether to pass it directly after the public debate on this topic.

The debate will take place on Thursday, March 27th, at 7:30 PM in the Student Activities Center (SAC) on the College Avenue Campus. Admission is free, refreshments will be served, and a large crowd is expected to attend. There will be an opportunity to ask questions between the debate itself and RUSA’s vote on the resolution.

More details for the event and the opportunity to RSVP and spread the word are available on the event’s Facebook page.

RUDU will also be holding public debate events as part of Rutgers Day on Saturday, April 26th. More details about those activities will be posted as the event approaches.

Rutgers 4 of Top 10 at William & Mary, Passes Harvard

The classic Washington Hall steps host the end-of-tourney photo of RUDU after another successful tournament.  Left to right:  Adam Bomeisl, Ali Ismail, Quinn Maingi, Sean Leonard, Storey Clayton, Rachel Moon, Henry Phipps, Arbi Llaveshi, Russell Potter, Alex Jubb, Nick Hansen, Joe Casais, Donalene Roberts, Maxwell Williams, Atif Ahmad, Lin Lan, Dariene Sy, Vidhaath Sripathi, Victoria Disla, Suraj Oza, Chris Baia, and Kai Rau.
The classic Washington Hall steps host the end-of-tourney photo of RUDU after another successful tournament. Left to right: Adam Bomeisl, Ali Ismail, Quinn Maingi, Sean Leonard, Storey Clayton, Rachel Moon, Henry Phipps, Arbi Llaveshi, Russell Potter, Alex Jubb, Nick Hansen, Joe Casais, Donalene Roberts, Maxwell Williams, Atif Ahmad, Lin Lan, Dariene Sy, Vidhaath Sripathi, Victoria Disla, Suraj Oza, Chris Baia, and Kai Rau.

Rachel Moon broke to elimination rounds for the first time in her career at William and Mary and the Rutgers University Debate Union (RUDU) ran their break-weekend streak to sixteen with two teams in the quarterfinals. Meanwhile, Rutgers also had the 9th and 10th teams, both just missing the break, giving RUDU 40% of the top ten teams at a tournament for the first time ever. RUDU also broke to novice semifinals for the second time in as many weekends and the overall performance was sufficient for Rutgers to pass Harvard in the national rankings two weeks into the season.

Here is the full list of awards won by Rutgers at William & Mary:
Russell Potter & Arbi Llaveshi – 6th Team
Henry Phipps & Rachel Moon – 8th Team
Quinn Maingi & Alex Jubb – 9th Team
Sean Leonard & Adam Bomeisl – 10th Team
Russell Potter – 9th Speaker
Vidhaath Sripathi & Suraj Oza – 3rd Novice Team
Nick Hansen & Lin Lan – 5th Novice Team

The breaks for Potter/Llaveshi and Phipps/Moon were the first ever for each of these partnerships, who now find themselves among four Rutgers pairings ranked in the top fifteen in the American Parliamentary Debate Association (APDA) Team of the Year (TOTY) rankings. Moon broke for the first time ever, varsity or novice, in the second tournament of her fourth semester of debate. While RUDU passed Harvard in the APDA College of the Year (COTY) rankings, both schools were passed by #3 George Washington University and #4 Johns Hopkins University, who had a team each in finals at William & Mary. Rutgers now stands ranked fifth behind those schools, #1 Brandeis, and #2 Yale. The rankings tend to fluctuate fairly wildly early in the season as they are based on cumulative achievements and each tournament makes for significant changes early on.

The third tournament of the year for Rutgers will be held this weekend at Columbia University and RUDU plans to send its largest contingent yet. The promising novice class will seek to make it three straight weekends in the elimination rounds for first-year debaters. Already four separate novices have made the break. Meanwhile, seven varsity debaters from Rutgers have made elimination rounds already and three more who qualified for Nationals last year have been in the top ten. No other university has put more debaters in the break at tournaments this year; only Yale also has seven.

Rutgers is just two points behind Hopkins in the rankings and eight points ahead of #6 Harvard. The top ten is rounded out by #7 Maryland, #8 Princeton, #9 Swarthmore, and a tie at #10 between Brown and Amherst.

The Daily Targum, Rutgers’ student newspaper, printed an article about RUDU’s early successes on Friday. The article can be read here, though it should be noted that Yale, not Princeton, is ahead of Rutgers, and the headline is thus slightly incorrect.

RUDU will be holding its first public debate of the year on the Rutgers campus, at 8:00 PM on Wednesday the 18th in Tillett 254 (Livingston Campus). The topic will be whether the United States should close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay and the debate will be followed by a faculty panel of three Political Science professors.

Rutgers 7th at Brandeis, Debates Health Ethics at UMDNJ

The Rutgers contingent at Brandeis gathers after the narrow 3-2 loss in quarterfinals at the huge Brandeis tournament.  Left to right:  Adam Bomeisl, Henry Phipps, Storey Clayton, Alex Jubb, Ashley Novak, Jason Boyle, Chris Bergman, Phil Davidar, Rachel Moon, Nick Hansen, George Alukal, Kai Rau, Russell Potter, Nisha Kumar, Sean Leonard, Quinn Maingi, and Stine-Oksana Soomai.
The Rutgers contingent at Brandeis gathers after the narrow 3-2 loss in quarterfinals at the huge Brandeis tournament. Left to right: Adam Bomeisl, Henry Phipps, Storey Clayton, Alex Jubb, Ashley Novak, Jason Boyle, Chris Bergman, Phil Davidar, Rachel Moon, Nick Hansen, George Alukal, Kai Rau, Russell Potter, Nisha Kumar, Sean Leonard, Quinn Maingi, and Stine-Oksana Soomai.

The Rutgers University Debate Union (RUDU) ran its break streak to thirteen weekends and padded the lead for 3rd place in the College of the Year (COTY) standings with an octofinal win and quarterfinal appearance for Ashley Novak & Chris Bergman at Brandeis last weekend.

Here are the official accomplishments from Brandeis:
Chris Bergman & Ashley Novak – 7th Team
Ashley Novak – 9th Speaker

Bergman & Novak lost the narrowest quarterfinal decision to a team from Yale. Yale remains cemented in 1st place in the COTY standings with host Brandeis 2nd. However, Rutgers gained 7 more points over Johns Hopkins and Harvard this weekend, extending the lead for 3rd place with one regular-season weekend remaining. Rutgers’ lead over the two schools and the University of Chicago, which has been rising through the ranks in the last month, is all but insurmountable in the last weekend before the National Championships at the University of Maryland.

Rutgers will be sending five full teams to Nationals with its seven qualifications this year, both team records. The final squad will be announced this week, but will certainly consist of qualified debaters Novak, Bergman, Russell Potter, Adam Bomeisl, Quinn Maingi, Alex Jubb, and Sean Leonard.


On Monday afternoon, Nisha Kumar and Sean Leonard debated Alex Jubb and Bhargavi Sriram on the topic of whether it was ethical to ration certain healthcare procedures for some to ensure more complete healthcare access for all. Kumar & Leonard took the Government position that it was ethical, while Jubb & Sriram opposed. The debate was held in the West Lecture Hall of the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. Attended by over fifty UMDNJ students, the debate was lively and spirited and introduced by RUDU alumnus Kevin Parks ’11, a current UMDNJ medical student.

UMDNJ will be merging with Rutgers over the summer to become the Rutgers Medical School. The debate was the first in what will hopefully become a larger series of debates on healthcare policy and biomedical ethics in partnership between Rutgers Med and the Debate Union.

Rutgers Novices Shine at NYU

File photos of the three RUDU novices who excelled at NYU this past weekend during the winter storm that hit the Northeast.  Left to right:  Sean Leonard, Stine-Oksana Soomai, and George Alukal.
File photos of the three RUDU novices who excelled at NYU this past weekend during the winter storm that hit the Northeast. Left to right: Sean Leonard, Stine-Oksana Soomai, and George Alukal.

Braving the snowy near-blizzard conditions that hit New York and much of the Northeast United States, a handful of teams went to NYU to represent the Rutgers University Debate Union (RUDU) this past weekend. Sean Leonard’s partner dropped at the last minute, but he wound up in the varsity break with a GW senior. Meanwhile, Stine-Oksana Soomai and George Alukal made their first novice break this year in George’s second-ever tournament. The pair dropped their novice outround after breaking as the top novice seed.

Here are the official results:
Sean Leonard & Dan Cobos [George Washington University] – 14th Team
Stine-Oksana Soomai & George Alukal – 5th Novice Team
Sean Leonard – 4th Novice Speaker
Stine-Oksana Soomai – 8th Novice Speaker

The varsity break is the third for Leonard this year and helps maintain RUDU’s varsity break streak at six consecutive tournaments. Meanwhile, this tournament represents a break-out for Stine-Oksana Soomai, who won her first novice team and speaker awards.

Just before departing for the tournament, Rutgers debaters were treated to word that the team had appeared in the Daily Targum, Rutgers’ student newspaper, for a second time in a week. The Friday article detailed the Wednesday night public debate that was attended by nearly 200 students and faculty. The article was the sixth Targum piece on RUDU this school year.

Rutgers remains fifth in the league overall at present, just behind Johns Hopkins and Harvard and decently ahead of the University of Chicago, who is sixth. The team has a very good chance of finishing ahead of the two schools it is most closely chasing at present, with more depth than either team and several debaters on the verge of qualifying for Nationals. This weekend features a trip just down the road to Princeton University.

Rutgers 7th at TCNJ, Varsity Break Streak at 5 Tournaments

A file photo of Russell Potter and Adam Bomeisl, who finished 7th at TCNJ and are currently ranked 12th overall in the Team of the Year (TOTY) standings.
A file photo of Russell Potter and Adam Bomeisl, who finished 7th at TCNJ and are currently ranked 12th overall in the Team of the Year (TOTY) standings.

The Rutgers University Debate Union (RUDU) broke to varsity out-rounds at its fifth straight tournament, including all four this semester, and Adam Bomeisl & Russell Potter maintained their position as 12th Team of the Year (TOTY) on the APDA standings. Two more Rutgers teams finished just out of the break at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) tournament and three RUDU debaters found their names in the speaker ranks.

Here are the official TCNJ results this year:
Russell Potter & Adam Bomeisl – 7th Team
Russell Potter – 6th Speaker
Quinn Maingi – 10th Speaker
Raynee Morris – 8th Novice Speaker

The team also narrowed the gap with Harvard in the overall league standings and was featured in the Targum for doing so. The article was published yesterday and includes quotes from team leaders and Coach Storey Clayton.

Coach Clayton will also be interviewed on RU-TV for the Wake Up Rutgers program at 9:00 AM on Thursday, February 7th. You can watch that on channels 8 and 60 on-campus or online here.

You can also see the Rutgers University Debate Union in action live tomorrow night (February 6th) at 8:00 PM in the Cook Campus Center. Bhargavi Sriram, Arbi Llaveshi, Quinn Maingi, and Sean Leonard will be joined by Professors David Hughes and Bruce Mizrach in the 45-minute debate on how Rutgers should react to climate change. You can RSVP for that event and get more details on Facebook.

RUDU in Targum for Fourth Time this Term

Meryem Uzumcu (center) speaks during her novice semifinal win at Johns Hopkins while partner Sean Leonard (right) looks on. This was the first break round of the 27 RUDU has been in so far this season (6 novice and 21 varsity).

The Rutgers University Debate Union, fifth in the nation going into the last tournament of the semester, was featured in Rutgers’ student daily paper for the fourth time this term. You can read the article here.

Previous articles in the Targum this semester discussed September’s Constitution Day Debate and the team’s early successes. A series of photos of the Presidential Debate Watch Party co-hosted by the School of Communication and Information (SC&I) in November also appeared.

A fifth appearance in the Targum is likely after the public debate on Monday, December 10th against RU AIR (Model United Nations) for the Think Transatlantic initiative. Details for that event are available on Facebook.

Rutgers will be closing out the semester with the tournament at Vassar tomorrow and Saturday. RUDU will be looking to improve on its current fifth standing in the American Parliamentary Debate Association (APDA). Rutgers trails Yale, Brandeis, Harvard, and Swarthmore and is ahead of Johns Hopkins, Princeton, the University of Chicago, NYU, and American in the top ten.

Rutgers Visits Point Pleasant Borough HS for Two Exhibition Debates

Kurt Falk (center) makes a point during an exhibition debate earlier today at Point Pleasant Borough High School. RUDU conducted two exhibition rounds for students of Ms. Stefanie Garguilo’s debate classes at the school. Left to right, Stephen Yellin, Sean Leonard, and Russell Potter take notes on Kurt’s speech.

The Rutgers University Debate Union (RUDU) sent two teams to demonstrate parliamentary debate for Point Pleasant Borough High School in Point Pleasant, New Jersey earlier today. The debates were attended by students of Ms. Stefanie Garguilo’s two sections of debate class, newly offered this year at the high school on the shore. Stephen Yellin, Sean Leonard, Kurt Falk, and Russell Potter represented Rutgers in introducing parliamentary debate to the high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors.

In the first round, Yellin and Leonard proposed paying students for better grades on a means-tested basis, with Falk and Potter opposing. In the latter round, Falk and Potter proposed that the state ought mandate voting against the other pair.

The students seemed engaged by the rounds and impressed by the format of the debate, asking many questions about the preparation for the debates and the fluidity of participants’ speaking. Parliamentary debate differs largely from most formats they had prior studied in that it relies less on research and statistics, while depending more on logic and rhetoric.

Point Pleasant Borough High School may be starting a competitive debate team later this year or sometime next year.

RUDU is currently ranked sixth in the American Parliamentary Debate Association (APDA), with tournaments at the University of Maryland Baltimore County and Brown University upcoming this weekend.