Rutgers University in Newark hosts its first collegiate debate tournament; nearly 70 teams competed

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This past weekend the Rutgers Newark Debate Team made its debut as a tournament host for the Cross Examination Debate Association and the National Debate Tournament for the 2011-2012 college debate season.

“To host our first tournament is a major milestone for the debate team,” remarked Rutgers-Newark debate coach Kurt Shelton.  “It demonstrates to the debate community that policy debate is a serious endeavor at Rutgers University.” Shelton is a former collegiate debater at the University of North Texas and has coached debate, primarily at the high school level through the Jersey Urban Debate League (JUDL), for 15 years.

From very humble beginnings in 2008, the Rutgers Newark Debate Team has grown considerably under the dedicated and focused leadership of Shelton and the auspices of the Rutgers School of Public Affairs and Administration (SPAA), the Rutgers-Newark Office of the Chancellor, and JUDL, and with support from newly appointed SPAA graduate assistant, Chris Kozak. In just three short years the number of debaters has increased from two to 10, with novice, junior varsity, and varsity teams competing throughout the entire academic year in more than 10 competitions, primarily along the East Coast, and impressing their opponents along the way.

At the 2011 Northeast Regional Opener Tournament hosted by Binghamton University, the Rutgers-Newark junior varsity team of Carlos Astacio and Kevon Haughton defeated the team from Cornell University to win the division contest. Also at Binghamton, the varsity team of Elijah Smith and Chris Powers and the junior varsity team of Devane Murphy and Aaron Kraut advanced to the semifinals of each of their divisions. Moreover, to complement their team efforts, several Rutgers-Newark debaters individually have garnered top speaker awards: Astacio at the James Madison Invitational Debate Tournament, Murphy at the West Point Debate Tournament, and Powers at the Liberty University Debate Tournament.

The team now adds tournament site host to its list of accomplishments.

From Friday, November 18, through Sunday, November 20, more than 130 undergraduate students swarmed Hill and Conklin Halls at Rutgers University in Newark debating whether the United States should substantially increase its democracy assistance to Egypt, Libya, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen. Approximately 50 college professors, graduate students and visitors heard their arguments. The roster of 13 registered universities included Boston College, Columbia University, George Washington University, Liberty University, New York University, and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. The team of Kiranmayee Kurimella and Ashley Everett represented Rutgers-Newark in the novice division. Other R-N debaters provided logistical support to ensure the seamless execution and success of the tournament.

The final results?  Liberty University took the trophy for the novice division, Binghamton University won the junior varsity division, and the City University of New York garnered the top award for the varsity division. (As host of the tournament, the Rutgers-Newark team withdrew its name from consideration.)

The Rutgers Newark Debate Team is open to all undergraduate students at the university. For more information about the team, please contact Shelton at

Founded in 2006, SPAA is the first new school established at Rutgers University in more than 20 years. SPAA has one of the top 10 graduate programs in the United States in public management and administration, according to rankings released by
U.S. News & World Report.

SPAA’s mission encompasses competence, diversity, knowledge and service, and the school faculty members equip future leaders and educators with the tools necessary to efficiently and effectively deliver government services. It is the only such school at a public university in New Jersey. SPAA enhances New Jersey’s capacity to develop more effective government at all levels, offering degree and non-degree programs, research and technical assistance to make government more transparent to citizens. The school’s most recent initiatives include a national network on performance measurement and reporting, a municipal public performance measurement system, and the development of the E-Governance Institute.

For more information about the school, visit

Founded in April 2001, JUDL is dedicated to enhancing critical thinking, research and presentation skills for educationally underserved students of color by making academic competitive debate accessible to all high school and middle school students in its targeted districts in New Jersey – Newark, Orange and East Orange. Each year, thousands of students compete in urban debate leagues – afterschool academic debate programs that coach students to research, develop, and debate national policy proposals. Under the umbrella of the National Association for Urban Debate Leagues, JUDL has been able to assure that more than 2,200 inner city students have opportunities equal to their suburban counterparts in mastering the intellectual rigor of academic debate. The many successes of JUDL debaters support the notion that when the playing field is level, all students have the potential to make academic strides and become tomorrow’s leaders.