Thirty-eight novice debaters battled one another with good natured rhetoric at the 17th Annual Intramural Debate Tournament sponsored by the Whitman College Speech and Debate Team, held on campus in early December.

The tournament format consisted of two one-on-one debates, with the winner decided by a judge, 16 debaters walked away with top honors. The hot-button topic of the tournament was the legalization of marijuana in the United States.  Each debater took a turn arguing both sides of the issue.

“It is a chance for students to express their opinions, to present and defend their ideas in a comfortable atmosphere,” said Jim Hanson, professor of forensics and debate coach since 1992.  “Some like it so much that they come up to me at the end of the debates and ask if they can join our regular debate program.”

With the field divided into three levels, top honors were earned by attaining a record of 2-0 for those in the inexperienced division and 1-1 or 2-0 for both the intermediate and experienced divisions.

In addition to heated arguments, the intramural debate tournament also serves as a social occasion for the debaters.  With refreshments and ample time supplied between the rounds, the annual event serves as a gateway into Whitman’s regular debate program.

Debate has long-been a staple at Whitman, both the intramural program and the intercollegiate team. Whitman’s debate team has been described as setting the pace nationwide: they were first in the nation in the 2010 parliamentary debate sweepstakes and the only college team to advance individual teams to the elimination rounds in all four national championships. Also, Whitman was the first top-tier team in the nation to go paperless, meaning debaters used laptops and other technology instead of stacks and stacks of paper.

–Troy Cameron ‘13