Policy Squad Dives Into Competition

The William Pitt Debating Union started the season off strong with vigorous performances at the first two tournaments of the season. Despite losing a number of strong debaters to graduation, including Nathaniel Woodford, Ryan Markus, and Ian Lee, the WPDU fielded three strong Varsity teams at the season opener held at the University of Missouri Kansas City on the weekend of September 13th.

The Panthers roared into action with a mix of returning talent and new blood. Returning debaters Madeline Budny (Class of 2017), Rishi Chebrolu (Class of 2016), and Michael Keefe (Class of 2017) are joined by three new team members. Hailing from Winnetka, Illinois is Matthew Piekos, a first year student studying economics and coming from a flexible argumentative background as a debater. Angel Le joins the team from Omaha, Nebraska, part of a long Pitt tradition of Nebraska debate that traces its roots back to two-time NDT qualifier Tony Todero (Class of 2003) and four time NDT qualifier Jane Munksgaard (Class of 2006). Angel’s argumentative style draws on a critical repertoire with a special attention to the performative aspects of speech competition. Finally, Rahul Ramanna comes to the WPDU from Nashville, Tennessee, and is studying to be a civil engineer while enthusiastically researching policy debate arguments.

All six debaters scored solid victories at the UMKC tournament. The team of Ramanna and Budny scored four preliminary round wins, losing a tight round 8 pull-up debate to just miss making the elimination rounds. Pitt BR defeated teams from Missouri State, North Texas, and Wyoming in the prelims while advocating for the legalization of marijuana in order to fight racism in the criminal justice system while simultaneously holding that there are substantial economic benefits accompanying legalization. Piekos and Chebrolu notched wins against talented teams from Kansas State and Kansas, among others, arguing that physician assisted suicide should be legalized in order to challenge the legitimacy of state interventions into micromanaging the lives of its population. Finally, despite some adversity, the team of Keefe and Le won their very first college debate together, articulating the importance of bringing critical theory to public policy debates about prostitution legalization.

Following the UMKC tournament, the team had a two week travel break to work on arguments, fill research gaps, and prepare for their next contest, a tournament hosted at James Madison University in concert with the Baltimore-area advocacy group Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle. Along with Pitt BR and Pitt CP, the novice team of Arnaud Armstrong and Joshua Nelson attended. While Armstrong and Nelson notched their first college debate victory ever, both BR and CP advanced to the elimination rounds with preliminary round records of 4-2. Along the way, Pitt notched wins against some talented squads from Rutgers, Liberty, and Binghamton. While both teams met defeat in the octafinals, spirits are high as the WPDU prepares for its next tournament, at Harvard later in October.