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Swarthmore Plays Host to National Debate Championships

By Monika Zaleska ’13


Swarthmore College Hosts National Debate Championships

In April, Swarthmore’s Amos J. Peaslee Debate Society took on the mammoth task of hosting the American Parliamentary Debate Association (APDA) National Championships. Forty college and university debate teams, comprising more than 300 debaters, descended on the campus for the three-day event.

Although small in numbers, dedicated Peaslee Society members organized a tournament that attendees described as one of the best national championships in a long time.

“The most difficult part was logistics,” says Carlo Felizardo ’11, facilities director for the event. “We’re a small team compared to the others, so providing the manpower to set up meals, find a speaker, and run the tournament efficiently was hard.” The team used a color-coded spreadsheet of events and reminders to stay organized.

Jenny Koch ’13, co-director of socials and food, was responsible for meals, entertainment, the final banquet, and the visiting speaker—Shelby Coffey III.

By tradition, the host team of an APDA tournament does not debate, and most of the Swarthmore team was so busy that many missed Coffey’s lecture on the changing face of the media. Coffey is former president of CNN Business News and CNNfn and former executive vice president of ABC News and The Los Angeles Times, where he also worked as an editor. He’s currently a senior fellow of the Freedom Forum and trustee of the Newseum.

In a nod to the Peaslee Society, Coffey said the tournament had been a “peak experience” and the team “could not have been more gracious.”

“The intellect and rigor of these students is just terrific,” he added.

The final round of the tournament, in which Johns Hopkins University took on Harvard University, was the culmination of many months of rigorous competition. Hopkins came out victorious in opposition to Harvard’s “hypothetical morality” proposition: “Given that an Abrahamic religion believes that ignoring your child until age 18 magically gives them universal empathy, would it be moral to sacrifice that relationship?”

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