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.