Debate team places first nationally

Two UVM students are re- turning home from the two ma- jor debate tournaments with a first-place trophy in tow.

Seniors Taylor Brough and Khalil Lee took home the win at the Cross Examination Debate Association’s National Policy Debate Tournament. The tournament took place at Binghamton University in New York March 26 to 29.

The tournament is often referred to as the “people’s tournament,” Brough said, because teams do not need to qualify to compete, unlike the National Debate Tournament, which they competed in after their appearance at CEDA.

Lee said he and Brough go against the traditional grain of National Debate Tournament because they are black and native students, respectively.

The trophy for the Cross examination debate association National debate competition.
[/media-credit] The trophy for the Cross examination debate association
National debate competition.
Brough and Lee both said National Debate Tournament is regarded as an elite competition debate; the top 16 ranked teams in the nation are automatically invited to participate, while other teams need to qualify through a series of preliminary events.

Brough and Lee’s team qualified as one of the first- round invitees to NDT.

Brough and Lee participated in the American policy debate, which involves the selection of a year-long topic which they then research in- tensely and present arguments that both affirm and negate it at competitions throughout the year, Brough said.

She said preparation involves collecting massive amounts of research and evidence, and she and Lee spend about 20 hours a week working on debate, not accounting for travel time.

“It’s like a part-time job,” Brough said.

The topic this year was whether or not the U.S. should increase its military presence in the Horn of Africa, Persian Gulf and Northeast Asia, Brough said.

Lee said policy debate isn’t purely concrete analysis of U.S. policy, but about using the resolution as a metaphor for gaining inroads into broader conversations.

Their argument this year discussed the ways in which violence is normalized, he said. They employed the concept of a black hole as an alternative version of reality in which marginalized persons could live without pressures from white heteronormativity, colonialism and classism.

“The metaphor was that gravity works on a perpetual axis of hate,” Lee said.

Their performance at CEDA and the National Debate Tournament this year were the last two tournaments of their career as debaters, Brough said.

They’ve participated in 11 tournaments this year so far, she said, and travel roughly every three weeks.

They miss an average of 21 days of class a semester, Lee said. Some professors are more flexible than others regarding assignments.

He said he doesn’t think debate should be an excuse for getting out of work, but some professors offer no room for compromise.