Debate Team wins major tournament

Fairfield University's two-person Debate Team won first place at the 1998 Columbia University Parliamentary Debate Tournament. The duo of Jason LaRue '99 and Courtney Darts '01 beat 69 other teams, including teams from Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Princeton, Yale and Williams, for the championship, according to Dr. Curtis Naser, advisor to the Debate Team and assistant professor of philosophy.

Fairfield defeated Princeton in the quarterfinals, Johns Hopkins in the semis and Williams College in the finals. "We beat some extremely good schools," said Darts.

In addition, the debaters also won awards for individual speaking. LaRue won first place for best overall speaker and Darts won second place as novice speaker.

For winning the tournament, LaRue and Darts have qualified for the 1999 American Parliamentary Debate Association's National Tournament at Fordham University in April.

To defeat Williams for the title, LaRue and Darts with only five minutes notice had to construct and present an argument against the proposition that a law that infringes on the rights of a group is still constitutional as long as it was passed without intending to infringe on that group's rights. Citing a law that bans Native American groups from smoking hallucinogens for religious purposes, LaRue and Darts argued that by exempting Native Americans from the law, the government would be engaging in discriminatory practices.

"As a teacher, what impresses me most is that as they are debating, they create what they call a 'flow' of their opponents' arguments," said Dr. Naser. "They diagram out in a'chart the major and minor arguments, as it is necessary for them to respond to the specific points made by the opposing team. This activity of charting the flow of the argument is, I think, a remarkably useful skill that will serve them well. It requires that they analyze both their own and their opponent's arguments, and as a philosopher, what could be more pleasing than to have a group of students who teach themselves how to think in competition with one another."

Darts, a sophomore English major from New York, said the Columbia Debate was her second tournament ever. "I joined the Debating Team to conquer my fear of public speaking," she said. "I'm still learning a lot."

The team will compete in the World Universities Debating Championship in Manila, the Philippines, over Christmas break.

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647,

Posted on December 1, 1998

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