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Debaters earn fifth at nationals

By Heather Zajdel

Section: News

April 15, 2005

The Brandeis Academic Debate and Speech Society (BADaSS) placed fifth in the American Parliamentary Debate Associations (APDA) National Championships at Wesleyan University last weekend.

Defeating teams from schools including Yale, William and Mary and Stanford, Justin Gelfand 05 and Andy Bragen 05 finished fifth in the nation. Lina Bensman 06 was awarded the top novice speaker and placed 10th among the varsity speakers in the competition. Harvard, Johns Hopkins and William and Mary won the competition.

Shoshana Gordon Ginsberg 07, BADaSS Vice President of Operations, was a judge for the competition along with trained students from other schools and champion debaters from the 1980s, she said. She explained that teams were judged based on their ability to convince an average college student that their position was correct. The Society debated a wide variety of issues ranging from the World Trade Organization to whether or not police should read suspects Miranda rights.

I watched them and they did an awesome job Ginsberg said.

Brandeis also gained wide support from other schools in the competition. Teams from Brown, Stanford and the University of Minnesota rooted for Gelfand and Bragen as they vied for the national honor.

Fostering the feeling of comradeship, Gelfand explained, we welcomed members from the most successful debate teams in the nation to join us for cocktails for celebration in out hotel room.

This is the most successful the team has been in five years, according to Brian Schon 06, BADaSS President. Schon attributes a large part of the teams success this year to the extra funding they received from Senior Vice President for Students and Enrollment Jean Eddys Retention Fund and additional support from University President Jehuda Reinharz.

The funding allowed Brandeis to have a much larger presence in the debate circuit, said Schon.
Unlike previous years when the budget was tighter, everyone was able to go to any tournament he said. In addition to local competitions, Schon and Gelfand were able to compete in the 25th annual Worlds Universities Debating Competition in Malaysia earlier this year.

The team was also able this year to hire a professional debate coach.

Schon gave credit for much of the Societys success this year to the presence of the younger members on the team. Brandeis has the top tier first year debaters in the nation, he said.

Andy and I were absolutely psyched to put Brandeis on the map ahead of most of the Ivy League in the most prestigious tournament of the year, said Gelfand.

In order to qualify for competition, which three BADaSS teams did, participants needed to qualify at an earlier APDA competition. Those who placed first or second at these events were allowed to go to Nationals. Two Brandeis teams were present at the national competition.

BADaSS, previously the Brandeis Debate and Speech Society, claims the honor of Brandeis oldest club, having existed since the founding of the University. It has also been one of the most historically successful and maintains strong links with club alumni, who continue to mentor and coach new debaters.

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