Vermont Debate Wins Big at West Point Debate

The events of this weekend were twenty years in the making. For the first time since 1984, the UVM debate team won first place at the prestigious United States Military Academy debate invitational. The team of Nick Landsman-Roos and Jason Hitchcock brought home some serious hardware after defeating the Boston College team on a 2-1 decision in the final round. This trophy is an encased antique military sword atop velvet. Around the case are engravings of the schools and debaters who won the tournament with respect to the year. For 2005, it now has the University of Vermont engraved on it. To win the sword, a team has to have a winning record in the six preliminary rounds and make it to the final round and win. Unlike most elimination rounds at tournaments, this one was judged by a special panel of military generals. “Based on the panel, Jason and I knew we had to adapt our usual strategy to appeal to the judges,” said Nick. A common misinterpretation with policy debate is that it is just debating the way we see it on CNN television shows, or the presidential debates. Policy debate is actually much different than anything most people have seen. The debaters talk upwards of 200 words per minute, run different positions every round, constantly challenge their own personal beliefs and carry around several large Rubbermaid boxes filled with evidence and quotations from scholarly articles and news reports. Though, this style of debating is not the way to win over several military judges. “We had to slow down a lot for the final round, and run some arguments based on a conservative ideology, which is not Jason’s or my personal beliefs,” Nick continued. The director of the tournament commented that for nearly a decade, the affirmative has always won the final round. Nick and Jason broke this chain when they won on the negative. This year’s resolution, or topic that all of the debates are based on is pressuring China economically and diplomatically in the area of human rights, Taiwan, weapons proliferation and or trade. The affirmatives argument, or “plan” as it is known in the debate world, was to pressure China in the area of trade, and specifically on protecting intellectual property rights. The affirmative wanted to increase the Chinese economy and the credibility of the World Trade Organization. The negative side argued a “counter-plan” that engaging China diplomatically is better than pressuring them since pressuring China would disrupt the progress made in the six party talks. Jason is only a third year debater. He started out by taking the speech 95 “Intro to Debating” class. Jason also won junior varsity nationals last year. This is Nick’s seventh year of competitive policy debate. He debated for 4 years in high school for Burlington High School. In 2004, Nick also took the title of junior varsity national champion. At West Point, Nick additionally received the honors of being first speaker. Within every debate round there are 4 debaters and each gives two speeches. Every debater is then given a certain amount of “points” to determine the rank of individual performance each round. Nick and Jason told me that winning West Point had been one of their goals for the year. When asked what was next neither of them had a clear idea. Sure enough though, we will probably hear more of their success this year. The rest of the Vermont team was not far behind in its success. All of the varsity teams were just speaker points away from making it to elimination rounds. One team that did was Ethan Nelson and Mike McMahon, making it into the top sixteen teams. The Junior Varsity team of Stephanie Kimerer and Sumeet Sharma were in the top eight of their division. Stephanie was also 4th individual speaker. The other Junior Varsity team of Jeff Wilson and Matt Jokajtys were in the top sixteen. Vermont was also one of the largest squads at the tournament bringing seventeen teams. Many students came on their very first debate tournament and did very well. It has been a busy semester for the Vermont debate team, but all of their hard work is clearly paying off with their success.