The novices and varsity/dino staff of the RUDU Novice Retreat I gather for a Friday picture. Left to right: Dave Reiss, Storey Clayton, Kristine Baffo, Chalisia Murphy, Ashley Novak, Chris Bergman, Derek Demeri, Henna Nain, Quinn Maingi, Taaj Robinson, Tina Dukandar, Daman Anand, Austin Zhuyan, Aditya Singh, Shyam Sridhar, Kurt Falk, Ian Eisenberg, Chris Beal, Gordon Morrisette, and Brian Canares. (Not pictured: Sarthi Tuli, Shireen Hamza, Elle Amofah)

Leaders of the Rutgers University Debate Union (RUDU) spent the last three days sequestered in the Rutgers School of Communication and Information to prepare the incoming class of first-year debaters for the upcoming competitive season. In three intense, fun, and exhaustive full-day sessions, seventeen novices worked with current debaters, alumni, and the coach to hone their skills and try out parliamentary debate.

RUDU is coming off its most successful season in history, wherein they ranked fifth in the country, qualified five debaters for Nationals, and consistently placed teams in elimination rounds at nearly every scheduled tournament. This success has prompted the Debate Union to redouble its efforts at recruiting and training to try to not only maintain the top-five ranking in 2011-2012, but exceed it and challenge for the top spots in the country.

This week’s Retreat was only the first of two that will be held to train new members for the rigors of intercollegiate parliamentary debate. The second starts Monday and runs through Wednesday and will engage another batch of about twenty novices in the same robust training regimen.

While Hurricane Irene is bearing down on New Jersey, it seems likely that the impact on inland New Brunswick will be minimal. Hopefully the storm will not disrupt the second scheduled Retreat, but only such a force of nature may be able to stand in the way of RUDU and its bright young future.