Colgate Debate Society Hosts Virtual 2021 Colgate Open

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By Jaanvi Sachdeva ’21

The Harry C. Behler Colgate Debate Society (CDS) hosted its annual British Parliamentary (BP) debate tournament, the Colgate Open, March 19–21, 2021. Traditionally, teams from the Northeast BP college debate circuit travel to Colgate University for a weekend in-person debate tournament. However, due to COVID-19 restrictions, the 2021 Colgate Open was hosted virtually.

During the Spring 2021 semester, a team of CDS members, who served on the Colgate Open Planning Committee, met weekly to plan the online tournament, which was attended by more than 80 teams and 60 judges from all over the world.

“Organizing a large event was difficult and stressful, especially because it was the first time coordinating the tournament virtually,” says Ethan So ’21, CDS president. “However, we were shocked but happy that so many participants competed and had a good experience. It was satisfying to see that our efforts were very worth it.”

The tournament consisted of five rounds of BP debate, with breaks to open quarterfinals and novice semifinals. A Discord server was created to serve as home base for the tournament, and all of the rounds were conducted through Zoom. During the event, CDS members served as volunteers, managing the bulk of the logistics, equity, communications, and technology for the tournament, with assistance from four chair adjudicators (CA), an external tab director, and external equity officer — members of the debate community from around the world.

The CAs crafted motions for the tournament, such as, “This house, as a progressive candidate, would heavily prioritize economic policy over social policy,” and “This house believes that major pharmaceutical companies should cut off supply of its products to governments that don’t follow the company’s protocol around their distribution and usage.”

The motion for the open grand final was, “There is a world in which humans can communicate with the dead. This communication is painful for the dead and disturbs them in their eternal rest. This house prefers this world over ours.”

Although debaters weren’t able to be with each other in person, they still managed to build community through chats in the tournament Discord server and other online forums.

“I miss being able to debate in person and see other people’s faces,” says CDS member John Morgan ’22. “Being able to travel makes each tournament its own little experience, but the debating world has adapted to a virtual format that makes tournaments more accessible to those who were previously unable to attend. Regardless of how tournaments look in the future, debate will remain the great community it has always been.”

The winners of the Novice Final round were Eden LaRonde and July Winters from Hobart and William Smith Colleges. The winners of the Open Grand Final round were Eva-Marie Quinones of Yale University and Matt Caito of Bard College.