National debaters converge on Wichita State
Wichita State University hosts the National Championship Tournament of the Cross Examination Debate Association for the third time.
As he began to speak, Matt Coleman sounded more like an auctioneer than a college debater. With a rapid-fire delivery, Coleman -- a member of the Wichita State University debate team -- unleashed a nine-minute speech on U.S. relations with the Middle East.
Coleman and his teammates were among the more than 175 debate teams from 70 schools on the campus of WSU on Friday for the National Championship Tournament of the Cross Examination Debate Association.
For Jeffrey Jarman, WSU director of debate, the event is a hectic culmination to nearly a year of planning.
"It's a long four days," he said. "It's a brutal run of debating."
WSU hosts eight preliminary rounds Friday and today and elimination rounds on Sunday.
Elimination rounds and the final round will be held Monday at the Wichita Marriott.
Jarman said WSU, which also hosted the event in 1986 and 1997, began preparing for the contest in May.
In the competitions, teams present opposing arguments and are then cross examined by the other side.
A judge observes the arguments and cross-examinations and selects the winning team.
Teams with five or more wins continue after the opening rounds, Jarman said.
The topic for this year's contest is whether the U.S. government should improve its diplomatic relations with Middle Eastern countries, including offering security guarantees and greater financial support.
Jarman said the students can spend up to 30 hours a week researching and preparing their arguments.
"It's impressive that students are willing to put in that kind of time and effort," he said. "But it's rewarding. (Because) it's not just a competitive activity, it's also an educational activity."
Eric Robinson, a 21-year-old political science major and member of the WSU team, said it was the competition that drove him.
"People always say 'I like to learn things,' but honestly... everybody likes the fact that you get to beat other people," he said.
Stephanie Eisenberg, who traveled to the event with her teammates from San Francisco State University, said the competitive aspect helped create a sense of community among people with widely varying viewpoints.
"We still all come here with the same purpose," she said. "That's very unifying."
WSU has three teams of two students each in the event.
The team of Coleman and Robinson finished the day with two wins and two losses, as did Brian Box and Grant Brazill.
The team of Zach Brown and Patrick Rinker finished at three and one.