Monday, March 28, 2016

ISU Junior, Mike Chen, Ties for 9th at National Debate Competition

Mike Chen
POCATELLO - While many Idaho State students were enjoying their spring break, The James M. and Sharon E. Rupp Debate Society was competing at the Pi Kappa Delta (PKD) National Comprehensive Tournament in Lexington, Kentucky for a large part of the break (March 15-22nd). Idaho State University Junior Mike Chen tied for 9th place in the Varsity division of International Parliamentary Debate Association (IPDA) Debate.

Left to right: Mike Chen, Sydnee Harris, Erik Ekstrom, Ethan Likness,
Michael Mares, Casey Santee, Cora Bidet.
Right back: Nate Graves. Right front: Jonah Ruhter.
Hosted by the University of Kentucky, the Pi Kappa Delta National Comprehensive Tournament featured 87 schools with 1,956 individual events entries and 354 debate entries. There were almost 1,000 individual participants.  Chen finished with a 4-2 (66.7%) winning record and finished as the 14th individual speaker and 10th seed. Ultimately, his showing means he tied for 9th place. IPDA is an individual debate format that features a different topic in each debater.  For each round of debate, the competitors are presented with five topics.  Each side is allowed to strike two of the five.  The remaining topic is the subject for debate. 

In recalling the tournament Mike said, “I am grateful for the opportunity to not only compete at a Nationals tournament for debate, but also place 9th and win a trophy. The competition was tough, and my competitors were fantastic debaters. Not to mention that it was a four day competition, so everybody was pretty tired by the time of the award ceremony. I am so impressed by my fellow debaters, and I am proud to represent both the debate team and Idaho State University as a competitor and a student.”

Left to right: Michael Mares, Erik Ekstrom,
Ethan Likness, Mike Chen, Cora Bidet.
The Rupp Debate Team has enjoyed its share of success. Last March, Seniors Patrick Loftus and Brock Sondrup claimed ISU’s first national championship at the Pi Kappa Delta National Championship in British Parliamentary debate at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.  ISU debaters Jessica Yeats and Izak Dunn placed third at the 2007 Cross Examination Debate Association (CEDA) National Tournament. In 2008, Jessica Yeats placed second in individual speaking at both the National Debate Tournament (NDT) and CEDA Nationals.

At this year’s PKD National Comprehensive Tournament, Ethan Likness and Cora Bidet also represented Idaho State in IPDA.  Michael Mares, Erik Ekstrom, Sydnee Harris, and Jonah Ruhter represented ISU in British Parliamentary debate. The Idaho State students are members of the PKD honor society which was founded in 1911 and has more than 200 active chapters nationwide.

According to David Bailey, President of PKD, "Speech and debate is vital for the development of oral and written communication skills—the very skills that employers consistently tell us they are looking for. Even more importantly, it fosters research, independent and critical thinking, and leadership—all qualities necessary for a more informed citizenship. In short, there are few educational activities that are as important as speech and debate."

In addition to developing their debate skills, the team had a great time. Mike Chen stated, “Aside from the Debate tournament, I also had a lot of fun on the trip too. We saw a lot of amazing sights, we took plenty of pictures, and we ate food to die for (I recommend the corn bread). My favorite part of the whole trip was our downtown stroll in Kentucky during which we saw a giant, psychedelic mural of Abraham Lincoln. Most of all, I enjoyed spending time with the Debate team. By the end of the trip, everybody looked like they enjoyed themselves. Despite being exhausted by the end of our week-long venture, they still kept positive attitudes. I was also incredibly happy that Nancy Legge was able to join in on the fun and even help out. Overall, this trip was a blast in and out of competition with an amazing group of debaters and even greater friends.”

Left to Right: Jonah Ruhter, Sarah Partlow Lefevre, Cora Bidet, Mike Chen, Sydnee Harris, Ethan Likness, Nate Graves, Michael Mares, Erik Ekstrom.
Professor Sarah Partlow Lefevre, Director of the Rupp Debate Society, agrees, “I’m so pleased that all of our debaters were strong team players.  They focused on the process – not the product.  That way, everyone learned a lot.  As our most experienced debater, Mike made us all proud by placing in the top of his field.”

The James M. and Sharon E. Rupp Debate Society, an AISU student organization, is sponsored by K-ISU and in housed in the Department of Communication, Media, and Persuasion in the College of Arts and Letters at Idaho State University. To learn more about the Rupp Debate Team, visit its blog at or find the team on facebook at ISU students who have questions about the team, or are interested in joining, should contact Partlow Lefevre at

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The Rupp Debate Society Debates an Emotional Topic --Immigration Reform

Mike Chen and Nathan Graves
POCATELLO—The majority of audience members at a public debate about immigration reform on February 9 at Idaho State University rejected the motion that the United States should deport nearly all illegal immigrants, but the affirmative team arguing for the motion still won by shifting audience opinion in its direction.

Michael Mares, Ethan Likness, Mike Chen, Nathan Graves
Michael Mares and Ethan Likness
In a vote taken before the debate, zero percent of audience members supported the motion, 71 percent rejected it, and 29 percent were undecided. 
Audience Vote Prior to the Debate
Following the debate, 29 percent supported the motion, 69 percent rejected it, and zero percent were undecided.
Audience Vote After the Debate

The winner of the debate was decided by which team had most swayed audience opinion.
Voting Breakdown
"In a sense, both teams won. One team was supported by a majority of the audience while the other team changed more minds,” said Sarah Partlow Lefevre, ISU Director of Debate.
Erik Ekstrom, a new ISU debater, was in the audience.  He said, "This was one of the first debate events that I experienced at ISU, and it was good enough to make me want to debate more"  

The affirmative team, arguing in favor of the motion, included Senior Michael Mares and Freshman Ethan Likness, both of Pocatello. The negative team, arguing against the motion, included Junior Mike Chen, of Casper, Wyo., and Senior Nate Graves, of Arco.

Nathan Graves
Nate Graves said, "For me. the success of the public debate could be mesaured in how the audience reacted. Not so much in the way they voted for the winners and the losers, but, in their response to the topic. It was a controversial topic, one where discussion is desperately needed in public discourse.  The fact that there were more questions directed at the debaters than time alotted for answering questions is a clear indicator that the topic was appropriate and is one that people care about. The overall objective of debate as a practice is to open up the communication channels on sensitive or controversial topics that might not otherwise be discussed in a public forum. This is what we accomplished with our public debate on immigration reform in the US." 

The debate was sponsored by The James M. and Sharon E. Rupp Debate Society, an ASISU organization sponsored by K-ISU Radio. For more information about the debate program at ISU, contact Partlow Lefevre at, or Assistant Coach Casey Santee at

Michaal Mares

Ethan Likness and Michael Mares

Mike Chen

Friday, February 5, 2016

Join Us For a Public Debate About Immigration Reform!

Rupp Debate Society to Host Public Debate about Immigration Reform

POCATELLO—The James M. & Sharon E. Rupp Debate Society will host a public debate on February 9 at 6 pm about immigration reform. The audience will be given time to question the debaters as part of the debate and asked to vote for the winner.

The debate will be in the North Fork of the Salmon River Suites on the third floor of the Pond Student Union Building (PSUB) on the ISU campus. Members of the ISU debate team will engage the topic: The United States should deport nearly all illegal immigrants.

“Public debate is essential to a functioning democratic society,” said Sarah Partlow Lefevre, Director of Debate and Professor of Communication, Media, and Persuasion at ISU. “We hope to air both sides of the issue and to encourage audience members to think deeply about immigration policy.”

Following the debate, the audience can ask the debaters questions about their arguments and strategies.

Immigration reform has been a controversial topic for several decades. While representatives on both sides of the political aisle agree that reform is long overdue, federal legislation remains stalled in Congress. At the center of the debate is what the government should do about the 12,000,000 Mexicans currently living in the United States after illegally crossing the United States’ southern border. During the current presidential election, the topic has become a flashpoint, with leading Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump calling for all illegal immigrants to be deported.

The debate is an outreach event for the James E. and Sharron M. Rupp Debate Society which is housed in the Department of Communication, Media, and Persuasion in the College of Arts and Letters at Idaho State University. The Bengal debaters are sponsored by K-ISU radio. The debate is free to the public, and refreshments will be provided. For more information, contact Assistant Debate Coach Casey Santee at

Monday, November 9, 2015

Standing Room Only for ISU Public Debate on Syrian Refugee Crisis: Team Arguing that US Should Accept 1,000,000 Refugees Wins

Michael Mares, Ethan Likness, and Nate Graves in the Public Debate.
Idaho State University Senior Nate Graves and Freshman Ethan Likness, arguing that “the United States should accept 1,000,000 Syrian refugees over the next five years,” won the public debate at the Pond Student Union Building on November 5.

Nate Graves
The outreach event for the Rupp Debate Team, drew a capacity crowd of 50 people—a diverse mix of students, staff, faculty and community members—to the Middle Fork of the Salmon River Suites. The winner was decided by the audience, which voted before the debate in order to establish a baseline opinion measurement, and again after the debate, to gauge the shift in opinion that resulted from the arguments presented by each side.
Michael Mares
The debate included three rounds: during the first round, each of the four speakers delivered a five minute speech supporting his team’s position; during the second round, or the “crossfire round,” the audience asked the speakers questions; and during the third round, the speakers delivered 3-4 minute closing statements.        
Ethan Likness
Graves and Likness argued that since the United States is a nation of immigrants, it has a moral imperative to accept the Syrian refugees. The negative team, or opposition, comprised of Freshman Jack Bradley and Senior Michael Mares, countered that the United States should not accept the refugees, but rather, should invade Syria to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). They argued that simply accepting 1,000,000 refugees would only help one quarter of the estimated 4,000,000 total Syrian refugees displaced by the ongoing Syrian Civil War, which began in 2011. Instead, they proposed that a US ground intervention to stabilize the situation by defeating ISIS would help all Syrians, and was the best way to ensure an end to the refugee crisis. Graves and Likness refuted the negative team’s counter plan with the argument that US military interventions haven’t always been successful. They offered the examples of Vietnam and Iraq.

Jack Bradley
Prior to the debate, 29 percent of audience members voted in favor of the motion, 33 percent were opposed to it, and 38 percent were undecided. 

Following the debate, 50 percent were in favor, and 50 percent were opposed. 

Thus, despite the fact that audience opinion was evenly split following the contest, it shifted slightly in favor of the affirmative team of Graves and Likness, giving them the win because their audience support increased by 21 percentage points while the opposition’s support increase by 17 percentage points. 
All four speakers were members of the ISU Rupp Debate Team. The team is housed in the Department of Communication, Media, and Persuasion in the College of Arts and Letters at Idaho State University.  For more information about the team, contact Head Coach Sarah Partlow Lefevre at

Monday, October 5, 2015

Idaho State Junior Places Fourth at Regional Tournament

Mike Chen holding the gavel he received to recognize his 4th place speaker award.
POCATELLO—Members of Idaho State University’s James M. and Sharon E. Rupp Debate Society competed at the Fran-Tanner Invitational debate tournament on Sept. 25-26 at the College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls. ISU Junior Mike Chen won the fourth-ranked individual speaker award in the International Public Debate Association (IPDA) event, which included awards for the top 10 speakers. Overall, there were 50 debate entries in three divisions at the tournament.
Aurora Zantman and Karen Lei competiting
in British Parliamentary Debate.
Universities and colleges from Idaho and Utah participated in the annual, early-season tournament. Other participating team members included: Sophomores Aurora Zantman (Boise, Idaho) and Karen Lei (Chubbuck, Idaho) in British Parliamentary debate, and Freshman Jack Bradley (Pocatello, Idaho) in IPDA. 

I've been doing debate for over 7 years of my life, so I was ecstatic to hear that I could continue it here at Idaho State University,” said Chen, a transfer student who recently joined the team. “I loved participating at the tournament. It reminded me why I loved debate in the first place.
The James M. and Sharon E. Rupp Debate Society has a history of success. In March, Seniors Patrick Loftus (Coeur D’Alene, Idaho) and Brock Sondrup (Idaho Falls, Idaho) won the Pi Kappa DeltaNational Championship in British Parliamentary debate at Ohio University inAthens, Ohio. It was ISU’s first national debate championship. In 2007, ISUplaced third at the Cross Examination Debate Association (CEDA) NationalTournament. In 2008, ISU won second place speaker awards at both the CEDA National Tournament and the National Debate Tournament.
Jack Bradley preparing to debate.
“Mike is an excellent debater and a strong team player. We thought it would be a rebuilding year after our seniors graduated. But, we’re off to a great start. I’m looking forward to seeing what the rest of this year’s competition brings,” said Rupp Debate Team Director Sarah Partlow Lefevre.

            The James M. and Sharon E. Rupp Debate Society is housed in the Department of Communication, Media, and Persuasion in the College of Arts and Letters at Idaho State University. To learn more about the Rupp Debate Team, visit its blog at, or find the team on facebook at ISU students who have questions about the team, or are interested in joining, should contact Partlow Lefevre at  

Mike Chen displaying his award on Idaho State's campus near Frazier Hall.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

ISU Debate Captures National Title in Pi Kappa Delta’s British Parliamentary Debate Competition

Brock & Patrick pose under the arch at ISU with their PKD trophies
Idaho State Seniors, Patrick Loftus (Coeur d’Alene, Idaho) and Brock Sondrup (Idaho Falls, Idaho) weathered a snow emergency and won the Pi Kappa Delta National Championship in British Parliamentary Debate, bringing home ISU’s first ever National Championship in debate. The team also tied with each other for 4th place speaker awards. Loftus and Sondrup traveled with two coaches and three other members of the James M. & Sharon E. Rupp Debate society to Ohio University to compete in the tournament.

Upon arrival in Ohio, there was little to no snow on the ground. As the team drove to their hotel about an hour from the Columbus airport, the snow began to fall on Wednesday March 4, 2015. By evening, there was enough snow in Athens County, Ohio that tournament officials were concerned about their ability to proceed with the competition at Ohio University. As the national tournament committee began cancelling events for that day, they promised to reevaluate the situation the next morning. Snow continued to fall overnight.

By 10 am, Athens County had declared a Level 3 snow emergency making it illegal to drive on the roads and Ohio University had closed its campus for the day. The ISU debate team was staying in nearby Hocking County which had declared a Level 2 snow emergency. This meant that the team could leave to hotel to seek out food and other necessities, such as ice scrapers for the rental cars. Nonetheless, they were unable to compete, the tournament was cancelled, and the Idaho State Debate team was forced to wait out the snow. Late Thursday, the team received good news. It appeared that the debates would begin the next morning.
Brock Sondrup debates
at Ohio University

Loftus and Sondrup, competed for three days culminating in receiving the First Place, Top Superior Award in British Parliamentary debate from the Pi Kappa Delta National Tournament.  They also were recognized as tied for fourth place speaker awards. British Parliamentary debate is team debate where four teams from different schools compete in a single round. The teams are then ranked from 1st place to 4th place and points are assigned. Loftus and Sondrup were ranked 1st in 75% of their debates. Tristin Herup-Wheeler (Kuna, Idaho), Aurora Zantman (Kuna, Idaho), and Mike Eyre (Boise, Idaho) also traveled to Ohio.

Patrick Loftus debates
at Ohio University
Examples of topics included: This house believes a cut in military spending is necessary to fund social programs; This house would remove all nonmedical exemptions for vaccinations; This house supports President Obama’s executive action on immigration. Debaters must be prepared to argue both sides of any topic. Topics are usually drawn from current events and recent news stories. Teams are assigned a position in the debate so they practice advocating for ideas they may agree or disagree with. The ability to debate both sides of a topic improves critical thinking skills and trains debaters to thoughtfully engage in public dialogue.

            The tournament was hosted by the Pi Kappa Delta (PKD) debate honors society. The oldest national collegiate forensics organization, PKD is celebrating its hundredth anniversary this year. The organization also sponsored the first national tournament. With more than 80,000 alumni, the PKD national tournament sponsored 513 entries in 13 different kinds of debate this year.

Back Row: Mike Eyre
Front Row (left to right): Brock Sondrup, Patrick Loftus,
Aurora Zantman, Tristin Herup-Wheeler
 According to Scott Jensen, the National Tournament director, PKD welcomed “75 schools from 30 states. The well over 2100 entries in 23 different events makes this a magnificent comprehensive forensic experience for all the nearly 800 students, educators, and critics . . . performing, advocating, speaking, and educating.”  Jensen also noted, “The comprehensiveness of this tournament, combined with the unique approach that celebrates egalitarian success, as well as exceptional performance, makes Pi Kappa Delta’s biennial tournament the best thing in our activity.”

The tournament host, Dan West from Ohio University, said “This year’s impressive collection of more than 2000 event entries makes this both the largest tournament in the U.S. for the 2014-2015 competitive season and the largest Pi Kappa Delta conference tournament to run in recent memory.”

Sondrup & Loftus receive their awards at PKD

Director of the James M. & Sharon E. Rupp Debate Society, Sarah Partlow Lefevre said, “We’ve placed as high as third at CEDA Nationals in 2007. But, to my knowledge, the PKD win is our first ever national title.” She continued, “We are incredibly lucky to have such great success in our first year competing in British Parliamentary Debate.”

Partlow Lefevre believes the success is due to the hard work and talent of the debaters with a little bit of luck thrown in. “They are learning advocacy skills that will last long past graduation. . . . But, winning a tournament also involves an element of chance,” she said, “you have to have the right topics on the right sides, ones the debaters feel comfortable defending.  The positions assigned in debates and who the opponents are in particular debates also influence outcomes.”    

Sondrup and Loftus receive their awards at the
Pi Kappa Delta National Tournament awards ceremony.

Both members of the winning team plan to graduate in May. Brock Sondrup’s degree will be in Communication, Media, and Persuasion. He will take a year and work while he decides between law school and graduate school. Patrick Loftus is finishing a General Studies degree and has been accepted to dental school. He will start at Midwestern University's Glendale Campus after spending the summer with his family.

According to Sondrup, “Debate has provided an opportunity for me to compete and win. But, more importantly, it has allowed me to develop advocacy skills that I can use in my future career.” He believes, “It is very cool to be able to say I won my last debate. Not many debaters can say that.”

Sondrup and Loftus consult during a debate at PKD Nationals.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Rupp Debate Featured in the Bengal, ISU's Student Newspaper

Jason Byron & Patrick Loftus prepare to debate at Gonzaga University in February, 2015.

ISU debate was featured in the Bengal last week.  Check it out!  No Argument Here 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Patrick Loftus and Brock Sondrup Win Pi Kappa Delta National Championship in British Parliamentary Debate

Brock and Patrick received the First Place Award (Top Superior Award) at the Pi Kappa Delta National Tournament in Athens, Ohio at Ohio University.  It was the 100th Anniversay of the PKD national honor society for debate.  
Brock and Patrick with their Top Superior Awards at the Pi Kappa Delta Awards Banquet.

Below: Video of Patrick and Brock claiming their British Parliamentary Championship Awards


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Patrick Loftus and Jason Byron Take Fourth Place in WSCA Tournament

Patrick Loftus, Aurora Zantman, Cameo Curnutt, and Jason Byron at Gonzaga University for the WSCA Debate Tournament. 
Idaho State University’s James M. & Sharon E. Rupp Debate Society placed fourth and was recognized for debate and speaking at the Western States Communication Association (WSCA) tournament over the weekend of February 21st. Senior Patrick Loftus (Coeur d’Alene, ID) and junior Jason Byron (Idaho Falls, ID) were recognized as the 6th and 7th place speakers, were finalists, and placed 4th overall.  

Sixteen schools from across the northwest participated in the tournament hosted at Gonzaga University’s campus, in Spokane WA. There were sixty-one debate entries across three divisions of debate.  Idaho State participated in British Parliamentary debate, a team debate that features a persuasive speaking style on topics pulled from recent news stories.

ISU debaters supported and opposed a variety of topics over five preliminary rounds. Both ISU teams were on the supporting side of instituting quotas based on socio-economic status in public schools, and argued against the food industry having an obligation to make currently unhealthy foods healthier.
Jason Byron & Partick Loftus Prepare to debate at Gonzaga University.

The final round topic focused on media stereotypes. Loftus and Byron were required to support the position that television actors of a minority group have a moral obligation to reject roles that are negative or stereotypical. Their primary argument was that negative or stereotypical roles violate a person’s basic human dignity, and that actors should reject these roles to protect their own sense of human worth.

Also in the final round were teams from Carroll College, Gonzaga University and Northwest University. A panel of judges from regional universities ranked each team in the debate. Idaho State’s team took fourth place and Gonzaga University’s team, who also supported actors’ rejection of stereotypical roles, took first place in the round.

Assistant Director of Forensics, Willow Moline said, “The final round was a tough debate, with excellent arguments from all of the teams involved. Patrick and Jason gave speeches that were compelling and engaging, and reflected the work they have been putting into developing their skills.”

Also competing for ISU were junior Aurora Zantman (Kuna, ID) and freshman Cameo Curnutt (Las Vegas, NV). Zantman and Curnutt took second place in over half of their rounds. Director of Forensics, Sarah Partlow-Lefevre remarked, “Cameo and Aurora did very well, especially considering that this was the first tournament for Cameo. They have grown as debaters and can be very proud of their performance.”  
Cameo Curnutt and Aurora Zantman at the WSCA Debate tournament.  
Idaho State Debate will be travelling to Salem, OR the weekend of the 28th for the Hatfield Memorial Debates, before wrapping up the season in early March at the Pi Kappa Delta National Tournament, hosted by Ohio University.