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Rutgers University–Newark Debate Ends 2017-18 Season with Another National Championship and National First Place Award for Public Debate

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Left to Right): Willie Johnson, Devane Murphy, Nicole Nave, Luis Carrera, Ryan Wash, David Asafu-Adjaye, Chaz Wyche, Carlos Astacio, Christopher Kozak, and Adegoke Fakorede

The Rutgers University-Newark Debate Team, housed at Rutgers School of Public Affairs and Administration (SPAA), had their own version of March Madness this spring when they traveled to three National Championship tournaments: the Junior Varsity/Novice National Championships hosted at the University of West Virginia; the Cross Examination Debate Association National Championship hosted at Puget Sound University in the state of Washington; and the 72nd National Debate Tournament hosted at Wichita State University in Kansas.

The junior varsity team of David Asafu-Adjaye (SPAA’21) and Adegoke Fakorede (NCAS’20) attended the Junior Varsity and Novice National Championships and won third place speaker and 20th place speaker, respectively. They ended preliminary rounds with a 5-2 record, defeating teams from Cornell, NYU, Vanderbilt University, West Virginia University, and George Mason University on their way to capturing RU-N’s third national championship following a 3-0 victory against Liberty University’s top JV Team. The tournament also recognized outstanding contributions to debate with the Dr. John Jacobsohn Community Service Award which was presented to debate coach Carlos Astacio, an RU-N Debate Team alumnus (SPAA’14) and executive director of the Newark Debate Academy.

After being crowned JV national champions, Asafu-Adjaye and Fakorede traveled with the varsity team of Luis Carrera (SPAA’18) and Chaz Wyche (SPAA’19) to the Cross Examination Debate Association (CEDA) National Championship. The CEDA National Championship is one of the two national championships RU-N won in 2017. This year, the team came close to the top again, with Carrera and Wyche coming in third place overall. Asafu-Adjaye and Fakorede finished in the tournament’s top eight.

“It is extraordinary for a program to have repeat performances like this at a national championship tournament and the fact that a JV team placed in the top eight at a variety level tournament shows exciting promise for the future of the program,” said Christopher Kozak, director of the RU-N Debate Team.

At the CEDA National Championship, programs are also honored for their overall yearly standing. For the 2017-2018 school year, RU-N’s debate program was ranked first in the Northeast for the fourth time in the program’s history. Additionally, debaters Carrera and Wyche were each presented with an All-American Award given out to 30 students in the nation who have demonstrated competitive success, academic success, good conduct, and significant contributions to their team. RU-N Debate was also ranked first in the nation for public debate and community impact events that the team hosted over the previous year, including debates at high schools and middle schools on topics ranging from literary controversies to historical events.

“The public debate award shows that the debate program does not just succeed in competitions, but prioritizes the need to engage with our community and spread the culture and skills of debating,” said Kozak.

After CEDA Nationals, the team traveled to the 72nd National Debate Tournament (NDT) at Wichita State University, which is the second major national championship that RU-N won in 2017. The team of Carrera and Wyche earned one of 16 selective qualifying spots in the sixth consecutive year that RU-N has qualified to the NDT. Carrera and Wyche missed elimination rounds going a respectable 4-4.

The team received an additional accolade at the conclusion of the debate season when coach Ryan Wash received the Dr. Forrest C. Crawford Distinguished Stewardship Award from Weber State University, recognizing his exceptional contributions as a Weber State graduate student.

The debate team’s accomplishments are the latest in what has been a busy year for the team, including an invitation to the NAACP Great Debaters touring event in Newark and the team’s community outreach activities.