Louisiana debaters take a couple of firsts, win other awards against major universities.

Scott EliotThe debate team returned late Monday night from Georgia State University, Atlanta. The GSU National Debate Tournament hosted over 150 debate teams (300+ students) from around the nation in the Fall Semester's first and largest policy debate competition. After a twelve-hour drive to Atlanta, UL students competed in two days of intense preliminary debate competition; and a third day of elimination rounds. It was a grueling weekend and it was a long drive back. UL debaters competed against programs from around the nation. Some of the other schools competing were University of Miami, Liberty University, Vanderbilt, Emory, Florida State, Northwestern (Chicago), Harvard, Wake Forest, Georgetown, Whitman, Samford, and Baylor.

There is great news to report. UL freshman debater Brettly Wilson (Breaux Bridge) won first place speaker in novice division debate, and Chapman Matis (Lafayette) won first place speaker in junior varsity division. The UL debate team of Matis and Dustin Domangue (Breaux Bridge) placed third overall in their division.

UL novice debate teams also had an exceptional run this weekend. The team of Brettly Wilson and Ezekias Mondesir advanced to octofinals in their division. Additionally, Alease Scott and Dustin Chastant advanced to octofinals at their very first tournament.

Chapman's first place speaker award came as a surprise to us. I found out at 2 a.m. Tuesday that the tournament staff made an error at the awards ceremony, announcing at the awards ceremony that Chapman had placed second. In a show good sportsmanship, the student receiving the first place recognition, from Liberty University, pointed out the error and returned the trophy to the GSU tournament staff. GSU has made arrangements to give Chapman his award at the Vanderbilt University tournament this November.

Policy debate remains a research-intensive activity that favors hard work over merely speaking well. This year's topic asks whether the United States should cut farm subsidies and commodities tariffs. It may sound boring at first blush, but UL students offered several innovative perspectives that impressed the judges this weekend. UL debaters contended that cotton subsidies were driving millions of Third World farmers into abject poverty. From a "Feminization of Poverty" philosophical perspective, they argued that the only hope for resolving many of the Earth's problems (instability, overpopulation, environmental decline) rests in bringing women out of poverty. According to Pakistani and Oxfam economists, reductions in U.S. cotton subsidies would result in over two million women in Pakistan being raised out of poverty; millions more in Africa. The cotton subsidies issue has also soured our relations with Brazil and Pakistan. This has caused Pakistan to balk at various efforts to fight terrorism and Brazil to start a trade war by suspending intellectual property rights protections on United States' exports.

In elimination rounds, our debaters argued that the United States' support of industrial agriculture in the Klamath Basin bioregion of southwest Oregon is resulting in the mass extinction of Pacific salmon species and the destruction of five remaining Native American tribes who depend on the salmon for their subsistence and cultural heritage. Our students had to explain the nuances of Deep Ecological versus Social Ecological perspectives toward environmental sustainability. When debating on the negative side of the topic, our students argued that cutting U.S. subsidies would drive Brazilian deforestation into overdrive and foster the international use of monoculture crops. The ecological implications of these disadvantages often overwhelmed the advantages presented by opposing teams.

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