In the world of intercollegiate debate, some points are inarguable. Under Professor of Forensics Jim Hanson, Whitman College’s debate team capped a brilliant year of competition with the No. 1 ranking in the country in combined policy and parliamentary debate.

Final rankings are based on National Debate Tournament and National Parliamentary Debate Association figures.

Whitman unseated perennial rival University of California, Berkeley, for top honors. In varsity policy debate, Hanson’s crew triumphed over powerhouses Harvard, Emory, Northwestern and Dartmouth.

Whitman was the only school in the country to send teams to elimination rounds in all four national championship tournaments, Hanson noted. Those teams included seniors Chris Chamness ’07, Matt Schissler ’07, Ross Richendrfer ’07, Ben Meiches ’07 and Meghan Hughes ’07.

“This is third year in the past four that Whitman has advanced teams to elimination debates in all four tournaments,” said Hanson, National Debate Coach of the Year in 2004. “I don’t think any other team in the nation can say that.”

The college also qualified three teams to the NDT, the smallest school to do so in the history of the tournament.

Whitman’s showing extends a long tradition of great debate. In policy debate alone, Hanson’s team has earned first place at more than 30 tournaments over the past five years. In turn, parliamentary debaters took first place in the nation as a team in 2004-05. “We have taken multiple first places, semis, quarters and octas during the past five years,” Hanson said.

The debate team travels extensively in the Northwest and across the country for national tournaments. “The comprehensive focus of our squad matches the high quality liberal arts education of Whitman — excellence in a well-rounded program of study,” Hanson said.

This year, Whitman’s policy debate pairs finished third in the country in the NDT’s varsity rankings. Of those pairs, Schissler and Richendrfer were 13th and 16th speakers, respectively, out of 156 debaters in the tournament.

In parliamentary debate, Chamness and Jeff Wilson ’08 reached the elimination rounds of the National Parliamentary Tournament of Excellence in Laramie, Wyo. Their showing put them at No. 25 in national rankings.

Whitman’s full debate squad includes 10-12 parliamentary debaters and 14-16 policy debaters. Hanson’s assistants include Aaron Hardy, assistant for policy debate; Rob Olsen, assistant for parliamentary debate; and student assistant Andrew Lum ’07.

“How much our students dedicate themselves to the work that debate requires will always amaze me,” said Hanson. “But knowing their commitment, and the strength of this particular team, I’m not surprised with the results.”

Keith Raether
Office of Communications, Whitman College