Whitman wins national debate title


Wednesday, Mar 31, 2010


National champs – Whitman debate students have lots to smile about after winning the 2010 parliamentary debate sweepstakes.

Whitman College’s debate team is the national champion — number one in the nation among 252 schools — in this year’s parliamentary debate sweepstakes, according to a recent announcement at the National Parliamentary Debate Association Championship in Lubbock Texas.

Jim Hanson, professor of forensics and the team’s coach, said this debate season is among Whitman’s best.

Another top achievement for this season included doing something no other school in the nation did - which was to advance teams to elimination rounds at all four national championships.

That feat is something Whitman has done before, seven times to be exact — which is also something no other college or university has done.

Also, the team of Nate Cohn ’10 and Daniel Straus ’10 is “one of our best policy teams ever,” said Hanson, who has been the team’s coach since 1992. He said the Cohn/Straus team advanced to the final round, placing second out of 202 teams at the recent Cross Examination Debate Association National Championship at UC Berkeley. Also, at the recent National Debate tournament in Berkeley, the Cohn/Straus team was rated the fifth best team in the nation.

Twenty debaters worked the entire spring break, “researching, preparing cases and arguments, and practicing, culminating in their debates with some of the brightest students across the country,” Hanson said.

Typical practice sessions lasted from “noon to 10 p.m. with many students staying up until 1 a.m. and even later,” he said. The daily schedule for the multi-day national tournaments was from about 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. with team members engaging in three to five debates daily as well as participating in “exhaustive preparation before, and critiques after, their debates.”  

Hanson said that in the heat of debate with such schools as Harvard and Dartmouth, the Whitman debaters consistently “show their liberal arts breadth of knowledge and make precise, well-thought-out arguments.”

He said the team is strong because of hard work and good argument strategies encouraged by excellent coaches Aaron Hardy and Nick Robinson.

“Whitman also has a proud reputation of making debaters who were not nationally competitive in high school into some of the nation’s best in college,” Hanson said.

Participants in the four national championship tournaments:

Miranda Morton
Tia Butler
Gabriella Friedman
Mitch Dunn
Andy Larson

John Henry Heckendorn
Tim Wilder
Drake Skaggs
Alex Zendeh
Allison Humble
Adam McKibben

Nigel Ramoz-Leslie
Joel Wilson
Nick Griffin
Chris Fleming

Nate Cohn
Daniel Straus
Lewis Silver
Dave Mathews
Ali Edwards
Spencer Janyk