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Debate society second best U.S. team at World Championships

By Heather Zajdel

Section: News

March 11, 2005

Malaysias Multimedia University hosted the 25th annual Worlds Universities Debating Competition (WUDC, or Worlds) over a nine day period this past December and January. The Brandeis Debate and Speech Society was represented by Justin Gelfand 05 and Brian Schon 06.

The Multimedia University website touted the event as the largest debating competition in the world, bringing together more than 700 people from more than a 100 universities from over 40 nations all over the globe. Competing countries included England, Canada, South Korea, China, Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Scotland, Wales, Thailand, India, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Australia, Germany and Holland.

Gelfand and Schon ranked 35th in debating and were the second best Americans at the tournament [behind Yale's top team], according to Schon.

Our success in the competition puts Brandeis on the map, and gives us international recognition, explained Gelfand, who placed fourth in the public speaking segment.
This is the first time an American has spoken before an international panel actually caring about how it votes, Gelfand joked in his speech. He believes that it was the American sense of humor that helped him place so well;

in his words, people like being entertained.

The nine day event (Dec. 27, 2004 through Jan. 4, 2005) gave students from around the world the opportunity to experience a country not often visited by Americans. We had incredible constructed debates as well as informal conversations with fellow students from countries the U.S. government wont even talk to, Gelfand said, It gives you wonderful insight from an educated, intellectual group of people on how the United States is viewed abroad.

Schon also felt the trip was momentous for Brandeis, noting that it was a magnificent experience.

Brandeis contributed approximately $4,000 toward the Malaysia trip. This limited funding precluded other members of the club from going to the competition.
Using their own funds, Schon and Gelfand explored the area. They were impressed that in a country that harbors anti-American sentiment the top three tourist sights were the twin Petronas Towers, the World Trade Center, and a Times Square mall. They completed their experience with a five day excursion to Vietnam.

The Brandeis Debate and Speech Society, as old as Brandeis University itself, is historically one of the most successful student clubs on campus in its competitions. The Society belongs to the American Parliamentary Debate Association (APDA), along with its counterparts in all of the Ivy League schools. The University of Chicago and Stanford are also members. Gelfand characterizes the Association as the nerdy NCAA.

In November, the team won an ADPA tournament at Middlebury College, triumphing over Harvard and Yale.

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