Illustration by Nicole Swift
After three days of competitive debates at the National Parliamentary Debate Championship, the Western Debate Union secured the title of co-national champions with UC Berkeley for the 2018–2019 season.
The championship was hosted in Salt Lake City at the University of Utah from March 15-17.
In team competition, Chris Coles, a third-year Western student, and Jessica Jung, a fourth-year at the University of California, Berkeley formed a hybrid-partnership and won seven of their eight parliamentary debates. These wins earned them the second seed headed into elimination rounds.
A hybrid team is a partnership of two students from different universities competing alongside one another for the same title, according to Margaret Rockey, assistant coach of the Western Debate Union.
The topic in the final round regarded sanctions against Venezuela: U.S. Congress should pass legislation to rescind Executive Order 13850, according to Assistant Director of Forensics for WWU Debate Union Kory Harvey.
“Our teams are well-versed in anti-colonialism, so this was right up our alley,” Harvey said.
Taking victories over the University of Utah, El Camino College and William Jewell University, Coles and Jung made it clear they came to win.
After defeating Lewis & Clark College in a 7-0 blowout vote by the judges in the final round, Western was declared the national champions of the 2018–2019 season, according to Harvey.
Coles and Jung pursued a set of innovative arguments that covered critical philosophy, gender studies and a strong mission for social justice, according to Travis Cram, director of forensics for the Western Debate Union.
Coles’ knowledge in the area of gender studies, social justice and her ability to do critical research for debate topics and personal experience in these discourses were crucial in helping to secure the win for Western’s debate team, Harvey said.
“We have been incredibly fortunate to have her on the team the past few years,” Harvey said. “She has been an incredible leader for our program. While some successful debaters try to keep their knowledge to themselves, Chris is always willing to help.”
Another aspect of Western’s debate team that makes them so successful is their elite coaching staff.
“The coaching staff has been absolutely fantastic and are some of the smartest people I know who have made it a lot easier to be successful,” Cameron Allen, a third-year Western student and a member of the Western Debate Union, said.
The debate teams’ coaching staff are nationally-ranked competitors in the collegian debate sphere, and team members said it was this leadership and experience helped bring home a national title for the Vikings.
“The two coaches who deserve a lot of credit… are Kinny Torre and Margaret Rockey,” Allen said. “They were actually the ones who convinced Chris to join the team.”
Rockey attended Whitman College in Walla Walla as a member of the Whitman debate team. Her third year on the team, she ended the season ranked third in the nation, according to the Debate Team homepage.
Torre has been involved in debate since 2010 and competed at the high school and collegiate level. Torre has been a coach at Western for three years and has worked with teams across Washington and Vancouver, British Columbia, according to the debate team homepage.
Winning a national championship in collegian debate is no easy feat, and it is a title many contenders do not get the opportunity to claim, according to Harvey.
“Winning a national championship in competitive college debate is incredibly difficult,” Harvey said. “It takes not only an awful lot of individual skill but also hundreds of hours dedicated to difficult preparation.”
The coaches said they feel fortunate to for the opportunity to have them on the team.
“To end their competitive season with a national championship is a really good vindication for all the exhaustion and trials that you face,” Rockey said.