Debate Team Celebrates 40 Years
In debating you learn a lot; you get to discuss the great public policy issues of the day; and you meet a lot of people.
The members of UWG’s debate team have been doing that for the past 40 years.
It’s not an easy feat.
Dr. Michael Hester, associate dean of the Honors College and the director of the debate team.
“Each of our undergraduates will do the equivalent amount of research that a master’s student does,” said Dr. Michael Hester, the associate dean of the Honors College and the director of the debate team.
Hester started debating when he was in high school and continued when he was a West Georgia student. He graduated in 1993.
The school has had a team since the 1930s, but the current version has been on campus since 1971.
Current and past members of the West Georgia Wolves debate team recently celebrated its 40th anniversary with recollections and dinner at 103 West in Buckhead.
In the 1970s, debate students did their research by digging through books and magazines at the library. They took a lot of notes. Copy machines in the 1980s meant lots of copying, cutting and taping. Notes were carried to debates in a traveling “ox box,” a tub filled with file folders, Hester said.
Now, just about all of the research is done online and students use their laptops instead, he said.
Although the technology of research has changed, the debate format has remained largely unchanged.
Debaters take positions on public policy issues and make their arguments in intercollegiate competitions. They learn to argue both sides of an issue.
The Internet allows for more in-depth research. But debaters still have to think through their arguments.
“Just because we can take it in, doesn’t mean we can translate it,” Hester said. “In a debate we have to explain it.”
The debate topic for the competition season is the whether or not the United States should increase the number of visas in various categories, including employment-based and family-based visas, plus those issued to victims of human trafficking.
UWG’s team is in the heat of competition, Hester said.
The team is attending the Cross Examination Debate Association National Championship, from March 17 through March 22, in Binghamton N.Y.
In early March, Osayame Gaius and Natasha Godwin finished fifth at the Junior Varsity Nationals at Towson University in Maryland.
Last fall, the Wolves captured the varsity championship and finished as the runner-up in the novice division during the Vanderbilt Invitational Tournament at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.
The team is among the best in the nation, Hester said.
Although intercollegiate debate does have not the same kind of structured ranking that sports do, UWG had the longest streak – 38 years – for qualifying for the National Debate Tournament. The streak ended last season.
But, UWG is one of only three schools to win the Cross Examination Debate Association nationals back-to-back, in 2000 and 2001.
It had one of the top 10 teams in the nation from 2008 through 2010, based on the first round of at-large bids in the National Debate Tournament. This is the closest that debate competition has to a national poll.
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