On Wednesday, May 7th, the Rutgers University Debate Union (RUDU) closed one of its most successful seasons of all-time with the annual Senior Banquet, held for the second year in a row upstairs in the Livingston Dining Commons. A bit less than half of the 59 students who attended at least one tournament this year went to the event, celebrating the 5th College of the Year standing for Rutgers in the American Parliamentary Debate Association (APDA), the trip to National Finals, and eight graduating seniors, seven of whom gave their farewell speeches to the club.
The event opened with the finals of the “Would You Push the Button?” Tournament, the new manifestation of the Ironman Tournament tradition that dates back to 2008 on RUDU. Twentieth-seed Zach Sinkiewicz won the flip and chose to Opp against second-seed Sean Leonard. Leonard carried the humorous round on a substantial decision, joining prior (2012) winner Ashley Novak as the only sophomores to win the in-house single-elimination tournament. This tournament featured a double-octofinal bracket of 32 individuals which were pared down to the finalists over the course of two weeks. Sinkiewicz was by far the lowest seed ever to make the finals, upending the fourth and top seeds en route to his second-place finish.
Senior speeches marked the most emotional portion of the night. Maxwell Williams, Daimler Vadlamuri, Adam Bomeisl, Deepta Janardhan, Alex Jubb, Gordon Morrisette, and Henry Phipps gave Senior Speeches in the midst of the four-hour program, making their farewells and recommendations to the club. Each was introduced by a close friend on the team as per tradition, who told stories about the impact of that senior on the team and its history. The respective introducers for the seven seniors were Nick Hansen, Jamie DiVito, Sean Leonard, George Alukal, Rachel Moon, Arbi Llaveshi, and Becky Ratero. Speeches ranged from funny to heartfelt, with advice that was both tough love and warm appreciation. Senior Ashley Novak, the team’s first female President and first top ten SOTY finisher, was unable to attend the Banquet.
Williams closed his speech with a senior gift for Coach Storey Clayton of a homemade “Cards Against RUDU” game, while Morrisette announced the senior gift of a six-foot RUDU banner that the senior class will be giving to the team. Janardhan also announced a plan to donate a certain amount of money to the team for every novice next year who novice breaks or earns a top ten novice speaker award, to refocus the club on recruitment and promotion of novices as well as its current varsity success. Several other seniors have since joined her pledge. Janardhan also had the honor of passing on Farhan Ali’s “Beepy Timer” award, this time choosing to pass it on to first-year Ali Ismail. The ceremonial award is given by a graduating senior on the team to a non-senior to honor their perseverance and dedication to the team. Coach Storey Clayton closed the speeches with remarks about the team and the announcement that he would likely be stepping down as Coach of RUDU at the conclusion of the year after serving for five years as Coach. He thanked many people for their contributions to the team over the years and observed the incredible rise RUDU has witnessed from obscurity in 2009 to National Finalists in 2014.
The night continued with a game of “RUDU Feud!”, a take on Family Feud about various attributes of members of the Rutgers team. The game was run by Henry Phipps and Nick Hansen. The night then concluded with Henry Phipps’ slideshow of the year, set to music, and the annual iconic team photo, seen above.
Below is a list of the members of RUDU who attended tournaments this year, all of whom contributed in some way to the success of the Debate Union who became just the third state school ever and the first in 11 years to make the National Championship Final Round.
R. Quinn Maingi