Debate team undefeated, looks to take on world

At the beginning of the semester, the debate team was confident it could uphold a successful year.

At the end of it, records were broken and two team members will travel to Germany to compete in the world’s largest debate tournament.

After five tournament wins last year, the university’s debate team participated in and won three different competitions this semester and looks to make its mark Dec. 27 in Berlin, Germany at the World Universities Debating Championship. Joshua Rivera, a sophomore from Chicago studying political science, and Ben Campbell, a

junior from Springfield, Mo., studying political science, will face 400 teams worldwide such as the London School of Economics, Harvard, Yale, Princeton

and many more at the championship. Campbell said the tournament will feature the British Parliamentary debate style, a form the team knows but does

not practice consistently.
While confident, Campbell said the

pressure to perform at such a prestigious event has him on the edge of his seat.

“I’ll be honest,” he said. “I am a little bit more nervous than I have been for other tournaments, because I’ve never done this format before, and I’ve never been to the World Championships. I’ve only debated individuals from the United States, so

it’s a different cup of tea as they say.” Campbell said despite his nervousness, it will be a great opportunity to see how people from other countries view world issues in a debate. This will give him the chance to represent something more than the

school, he said.
“I’ve been privileged to have this

opportunity, not necessarily just to represent SIU as I do every weekend but now to be representing the United States, which is really exciting,” he said.

However, the chance to debate at the championships is not the team’s only accomplishment.

Todd Graham, director of debate, said one senior debater made SIU debate history and has added a lot to the team’s undefeated status this semester.

Mike Selck, a senior from Blue Springs, Mo., studying rhetoric, said while he expected the team to perform well this year, he wasn’t prepared for its incredible winning streak.

“I’ve never been a part of a team that has made such a strong, undefeated opening at the beginning of the semester,” he said. “I can’t lie. It has given me really great confidence.”

Graham said Selck is the team’s most accomplished debater this year, as he set a university record with 16 competition wins his college career.

Selck said the record was discovered by accident and seemed too good to be true.

“We kept checking the facts,” he said. “It feels really, really great to have that success recognized.”

Campbell said the team set another record at the University of the Pacific Paul Winters tournament, where it won the entire tournament by the semifinals. The team took the tournament when both of its two- man teams won in the semifinals, which is a feat SIU has never accomplished before.

Selck said while the team accomplished quite a bit in the first semester, he’s not surprised it happened considering how much practice everyone banks on a weekly basis.

The team meets at 3 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday and sometimes won’t finish until midnight, he said.

To remain up to date with world issues, he said, every member also

researches various topics for 15 to 16 hours every week.

Selck said he feels great after such a fruitful semester, and he looks forward to the rest of the year once he returns from Christmas break. He said the key will be to take tournaments one step at a time and ensure adequate preparation for the March championship.

With this being Selck’s last year, he said it has to be one the whole team will remember.

“I really want this year to be everything,” he said. “I think that when we get back from Christmas break, we’re really going to try and step up all of our research, practice rounds and arguments that we’re conducting with nationals in mind.”

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About Austin Flynn

Austin Flynn can be reached at or 536-3311 ext.252.

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