RU-N Debate Team Gears up for 2016-17 Season

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The debate team at Rutgers University-Newark (RU-N) kicked off the 2016-2017 season with a meet-and-greet gathering on Wednesday, September 21, for novice and veteran debaters. Christopher Kozak, director of debate at the School of Public Affairs and Administration (SPAA), which houses the team, delivered a spirited speech to the coaching staff and nearly 50 undergraduate students in attendance.

Closing the 2015-2016 season ranked as one of the top 10 debate programs in the nation by the Cross Examination Debate Association, the largest intercollegiate policy debate association in the United States, “we are poised to be competitive at national contests as we endeavor to make a repeat appearance at the National Debate Tournament,” rallied Kozak.

The team’s road to the 71st National Debate Tournament (NDT) starts on September 23 when it hosts the Rutgers Northeast Regional Opener. A field of 140 debaters will compete at the novice, junior varsity, and open levels, from Cornell University, George Mason University, New York University, and West Point, among others. The tournament winners will be determined on September 25.  

During the last week of September, the team will travel beyond Newark to vie in two invitation-only tournaments: the Kentucky College Tournament at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Kentucky, where only the top nine teams in the country are selected to participate; and the 20th Annual Val A. Browning Round Robin at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah, believed to be the oldest tournament of its kind and described as one of the most prestigious tournaments in the country.

Other tournaments along the team’s journey to the NDT include: the Jesuit Debates at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington (October 29-31); the Huber Debates at the University of Vermont in Burlington, Vermont (October 29-31); the Franklin R. Shirley Classic at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina (November 19-21); and the Owen L. Coon Memorial Debates at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois (February 4-6). The team anticipates that its quest will culminate with the NDT at Kansas University in Lawrence, Kansas (March 23-28).                             

Continuing its goal to support and promote debate at all levels, the team also will host a high school tournament in January 2017 and an off-season pro-am coaches’ tournament. The pro-am coaches’ tournament is a fun, community-building exercise in role reversal where experienced coaches debate and the students judge.

Considered one of Newark’s hidden treasures, the debate team recently received praise from Assemblyman John F. McKeon regarding the team’s strong close to the 2015-2016 season, stating, “This prestigious honor is a testament to the high level of public speaking and argumentative skills you possess, as well as your tireless dedication to perfecting your talents. I know you will use these skills to help make the world a better place.”

Moreover, in August, Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka attended a celebratory reception hosted by SPAA and RU-N’s Office of the Chancellor to honor the team and applaud its accomplishments and success.

Willie Johnson, head policy debate coach at RU-N, echoes the accolades. “I believe as a team, we have the potential to create new and innovative dialogue about this season’s topic, climate change, which is relevant to our local community. Possessing the ability to develop strategies and research that is not only informative, but also unique is essential to our debate success.” Johnson also is the middle school debate director of the Newark Debate Academy.

The 2016-2017 RU-N debate team consists of 12 active debaters:

Luis Carerra of Newark, New Jersey (undeclared)

Adegoke Fakorede of Newark, New Jersey (undeclared)

Romina Gimenez of Córdoba, Argentina (marketing)

Michel Kelly of Hopatcong, New Jersey (political science)

Andres Moncult of Newark, New Jersey (public administration)

Heven Montigue of Newark, New Jersey (undeclared)

Nicole Nave of Ferguson, Missouri (public administration)

Devane Murphy of Newark New Jersey (public administration)

Christian Quiroz of Newark, New Jersey (undeclared)

Jaye Ross of Irvington, New Jersey (undeclared)

Hannah Stafford of Minneapolis, Minnesota (social work)

Chaz Wyche of Newark, New Jersey (information systems)

(Fakorede and Quiroz also are members of RU-N’s Honors Living-Learning Community, a transformative college access and success program that fosters the academic, social, and personal development of talented students from all walks of life with a desire to make a difference in their communities and beyond.)

With the bar set high, this year’s team is up for the challenge and looks forward to another exciting season of debate.


Photo: (First row left to right) Carlos Astacio, Devane Murphy, Nicole Nave, and Jaye Ross. (Second row left to right) Romina Gimenez, Willie Johnson, Hannah Stafford, Luis Carrera, and Andres Monclut (Back row left to right) Christopher Kozak, Michel Kelly, Adegoke Fakorede, Chaz Wynche, and Christian Quiroz. Photo by: Nora Luongo 

Photo right Attendees of Newcomers Debate Team meeting. Photo by Karrin Pitt