Debate team enjoys, wins competition

By Gus Bode

With hours of rigorous research and weekly practices, the Saluki Debate Team pulls together to stay on top of the competition.

Team members Michael Selck and Benjamin Campbell took first place in the Pat Kennedy Round Robin tournament hosted by University of the Pacific Nov. 4 to 6.


Josh Rivera, left, a freshman from Chicago studying political science, and Steve Farias, a graduate assistant from Merced, Calif., review notes Tuesday during the Saluki Debate Team practice in the Communications Building. “We have always been committed in working hard on the team,” said team member Kevin Calderwood, a graduate assistant from Chesterfield, Mo. The team will travel to Chicago on Friday to scout out high school students for the Saluki Debate team. Nathan hoefert | Daily Egyptian

Both say it is their love of learning and competitive nature that propels them to succeed.

Selck, a junior from Blue Springs, Mo., studying speech communication said he loves debating because it has become an educational experience for him.

“It’s awesome to be able to bounce ideas off of people with similar minds but different perspectives, because there are so few of us we have to concentrate those ideas and in the end it helps us to become more educated as a whole,” he said.

Members of the team are recruited during high school competitions and offered scholarships to debate for SIU, much like athletes.

Campbell, a sophomore from Springfield, Mo., studying political science and debate team member, said he enjoys going to competitions because of the great cohesion that the team has.

“We are very close friends inside and out side of debate. Even during my free time I hang out with all of the guys,” he said.


Todd Graham, director of the debate team, said the team is highly competitive and it travels the national competitive circuit.

“We get the opportunity to travel around the nation and compete with many other teams from great universities,” he said.

Joshua Rivera, a freshman from Chicago studying political science, said he thinks he is getting the ultimate college experience.

“I get to hang out with my good friends on the debate team all the time and I get to travel around the country and hang out with college kids from different universities … I get to hear a lot of awesome stories,” he said.

Graham said the life of a debater can be compared to that of an attorney. The majority of their time is spent doing research and only a little is spent on the glorious arguing that puts them in the spotlight.

“Most of what we do is research … because when we go to a tournament we don’t know what the topic of debate is going to be,” Graham said. “It is our job to try to predict possible topics like current events or politics and then we research those all week every week for the entire year.”

During a tournament teams of two debaters compete in five to seven rounds per day with a different topic each round. After the topic is given the team members have 20 minutes to write down their arguments and then they debate.

Campbell said competitions can become intense and stressful.

“Generally we try to keep the mood light by telling jokes or listening to music,” he said. “It’s good to have a balance of thinking things through thoroughly getting all the arguments we need, but also not being too focused so that our personality shows through when we are debating.”


elck said debate gives him an opportunity to combine his love of knowledge and his competitive nature.

“It’s thrilling to me that I could be at a tournament and people in the audience are writing down what I said because they liked the way it sounded. That’s what drives me to win,” Sleck said.

Rivera said he thrives on the intensity of competitions.

“The intensity is what is so appealing about debate to me,” Rivera said. “I get this amazing adrenaline feeling when I’m competing that I don’t think I could get from anything else.”