Debate Team Finishes Competition Season Strong

The Cal Poly Debate Team finishes the 2018/2019 competition season with a strong record of success.

The team’s success began in the fall when Cal Poly Debaters Ryan Hund and Brandon Chong placed as Semifinalists at the Social Justice Debates Western Championship, hosted by USC, where they debated the value of school walkouts as a tool of social change. Hund, the team’s captain and his longtime debate partner Georgina Bailey, then placed, along with teammates James Hasbany and Sydney Adair, as quarter-finalists at the Social Justice Debates Eastern Championship, where the topic concerned the role of speech codes in undermining or furthering social justice on university campuses.  Spanish language debaters Izzy Watson, Dominique Chequer, Jhoanna González, and Elijah Sobrien dominated at the regional Equino Chato Tournament.  

In winter quarter, Cal Poly Debaters were invited to present and defend foreign policy proposals regarding the Ukraine to the European Union Delegation in Washington D.C. Presented by Brandon Gordon, Parker Swanson, and Ryan Hund, Cal Poly’s ideas were praised by top EU officials at the event. 

The team’s success grew as the team’s director and assistant director, Chris Skiles and John Patrick, worked with the Society of Professional Journalists to bring a competitive debate to the SPJ’s Region 2 as the keynote presentation. Debaters from across the nation went to Ocean City, Maryland to participate in the inaugural John Peter Zenger First Amendment Debates. Cal Poly debaters Isabel Barbee and Maya Vikstrom competed in the final round against George Washington University on the topic “News reporters and organizations should prioritize truth over balance in reporting.” The audience, made up of the journalists attending the conference, were polled before and after the round, and selected Cal Poly as the more persuasive team, swinging the overwhelming majority of the audience to their side in the post-debate poll. 

Following the John Peter Zenger Debates, Hund and Barbee qualified to attend the Lafayette Debates National Championship hosted by the French Embassy and George Washington University. The topic for debate was “Democracy is the best hope for peace,” and Hund and Barbee rose to the occasion finishing as quarterfinalists. Their opponents in the final round, which was judged by academic foreign policy experts and foreign policy practitioners, were officers in the French military in training at the French War College, Ecole De Guerre. Even though their opponents had 15 to 20 more years of academic, professional, and life experience than Hund and Barbee, the judges expressed that Cal Poly’s understanding of the issues and evidence was quite advanced and had on several dimensions outperformed their opponents’, with the final decision being very close. 

In March 2019, at the Campeonato Norteamericano en el formato Parlamento Británico en la lengua Española, Cal Poly debaters once again won top marks taking 2nd and 3rd in Claremont McKenna’s Spanish-language tournament.  Against national and international debaters, Spanish-division captain Jhoanna González was recognized as one of the top speakers at the event.  

The debate team rounded out its competition season with the Spanish language division by hosting and winning Cal Poly’s Legados De Valladolid Championship. Headed by Spanish language coach, Marion Hart, this event is the first of its kind: a civic debate competition conducted entirely in Spanish, and judged by Spanish speaking academics and practitioners in fields related to the topic for debate. This year’s topic, “Any increase in border security should be tied to an increase in efficiency for legal immigration,” was supported by Congressman Salud Carbajal’s office, which sent the congressman’s local Spanish speaking support staff to judge the event, and the Mexican and Spanish Embassies, which sent their ambassadors from their consulates in Los Angeles to judge the event. Ultimately, Cal Poly debaters Jhoanna Gonzalez and Izzy Watson were named champions after winning the final round. 

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