The Rutgers University Debate Union (RUDU) took 3rd place at the American Parliamentary Debate Association (APDA) National Championship held at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ), defeating teams from Yale in the octofinal and quarterfinal rounds of the tournament. The team of Raman “Quinn” Maingi (‘15) and Sean Leonard (‘16) made it to the semifinal round of the tournament, losing on a close 4-3 decision to the eventual tournament champion Harvard University. Rutgers was the farthest advancing team from a public university at the tournament and the only public university in history to have back-to-back semifinal appearances at the National Championship. Last year, the same team of Maingi and Leonard made it to the final round of the championship, the first time a public university had done so since 2003.
The 3rd place finish at the Championship capped off a season of victories for RUDU on the APDA circuit, which sanctions weekly debate tournaments across the country. APDA ranked Rutgers 8th College of the Year (COTY), based on the cumulative results of all Rutgers debaters at the end of the regular season. Rutgers ranked above schools such as Princeton, University of Pennsylvania, Columbia, Stanford, University of Chicago, Georgetown, NYU, Cornell, and Dartmouth. This is the 5th year in a row that RUDU finished in the top ten COTY rankings, making it the most successful travelling team in that period across all Rutgers campuses.
On the APDA circuit, debaters compete in teams of two and pick from an assortment of possible topics, which can range from philosophy to policy to pop culture. Because of the scope of a possible debate at any given tournament, competitors must practice as much as possible before the year-end championship. Sean Leonard, one half of the championship duo, says the help of retired RUDU coaches Storey Clayton and Christopher Baia were critical to understanding the nuances of high-level debate. He also credits his success to the Rutgers administration, particularly the School of Communication & Information and Student Life, which has provided the opportunity for debaters to travel to APDA tournaments every weekend. Traveling every weekend on the national circuit has allowed RUDU to develop the rhetorical chops needed to compete and win against Ivy league schools at the highest levels of competition.