By DAHLIA SOMERS
The British arrived at the University of Mary Washington with fighting spirits.
On Thursday, Oct. 23, award winning British debate team members Kate Brooks and Alice Coombs Huntley debated UMW team representatives Mariah Young and Thomas Pacheco on the topic “This House regrets the rise of the Tea Party.”
Brooks and Huntley argued the affirmative, and Young and Thomas countered with the negative.
Anand Rao, associate professor of communication and director of the Speaking Intensive Program, was excited to hear the British debate team and its views on U.S. politics.
“[The debate] was about American politics and it was really great to hear a discussion of American politics from somebody outside of the U.S.,” Rao said.
More than merely bystanders, the audience became active participants during the debate when they were given the opportunity to assert their opinions and ask questions in the cross examination that took place before the final speeches.
By a show of hands, the British team that argued the affirmative won the debate.
UMW Debate coach Adrienne Brovero described the attention to detail that distinguished the university’s debate from more widely viewed political debates.
“I do find that a lot of the debates, especially collegiate debates, tend to air the issues in a more detailed way than a number of the political debates we see on television often do,” Brovero said.
Senior communication major Kailey Krystyniak enjoyed the passion that each member of the debate team had and said she was inspired to further explore the subject.
“I loved it. It was absolutely fascinating; it sparked a lot of internal questions for my own beliefs and myself,” Krystyniak said. “It sparked interesting points that I want to further investigate and just the sheer fact that it made me reconsider something I thought I stood so strongly on was great and intellectually invigorating. The debaters were top notch and such an enjoyment to watch. To see their dedication to their passion was great. I’m very proud of all of them and I’m proud of UMW for hosting and offering this to the student body, and I hope to attend more.”
Although debate follows a formal structure, Brovero noted that the characteristics and personalities of the individuals were distinct.
“I think that’s one of the interesting things about the difference in our styles of debate: American debaters tend to be less focused on humor and more focused on evidence,” Brovero said. “[The British debaters] were more focused on drawing attention to flaws in our arguments and we were a little more heavily reliant on discussing evidence. It showcased both their humor and our research skills in a good way.”
A constructive and objective debate requires that the team members be able to put aside their personal beliefs and look at situations from a different angle to find persuasive points to make about their topic.
Senior history major Michel Friedmann said he was impressed by Pacheo’s capability to do just that.
“I like Tom a lot, and his personality really came out in this debate. He just sat back in his chair and was like, ‘Well sure I guess, but…’ and then made a lot of good counterpoints,” Friedmann said.
Members of the UMW debate team worked hard to support their arguments with strong evidence and logic. They also received some help from UMW assistant debate coach Judd Kimball.
“My role was really just to facilitate that debate and help that questioning process. The stars of the show were the British team and the Mary Washington debaters, who I thought were all fantastic,” Kimball said.
Brooks and Huntley are the chosen members of the 2014 British Debate Tour. In two months they will debate over 20 different university teams. The National Communication Association and the Committee on International Discussion and Debate are sponsoring the tour.
“Mary Washington has been so, so nice to us. They put us up somewhere really nice, and they’ve taken care of us,” Brooks said. “They seem to really understand the demands of the tour, which is a really grueling couple of months.”
In addition to the debate, the British visitors were able to explore the Fredericksburg area.
“Other than education and debate, we’ve got fun things [planned]. We’re going to homecoming tomorrow, which is our first ever…We’re also doing a ghost tour around Fredericksburg,” Huntley said.
The debate was an exercise not only in international cooperation, but also in bringing the school and community together to discuss current issues.
“All students should join the debate team. It’s the most worthwhile thing you could do in university,” said Huntley.