Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Rwandan Debate Team Visit Will Include a Debate, a Documentary Film, and a Photo Presentation

Debate Event - Rwandan and ISU Debaters: Forgiveness vs. Justice

WHEN: Monday, October 24, 2016, 6 – 8pm

WHERE: Rendezvous Suites ABC

COST:  Free

In 1994, over 1,000,000 Rwandans were killed by their neighbors. In 2003, over 80% of the perpetrators were released back into communities they once sought to destroy. In 2016, over 61% of the population is under the age of 24.

Come see ISU and Rwandan Debaters pair off in blended teams to debate the topic:
This House believes that in the aftermath of Genocide, forgiveness is more important than justice.

This event is free and open to the public.

Refreshments provided.

Documentary Film - Rwandan Debaters: Stories from a Post-Genocide Generation

WHEN: Tuesday, October 25, 2016, 6 – 8pm


COST: Free

Rwanda is a post-genocidal society. More than 61% of the population is under the age of 24.

Join us as we view a 15 minute documentary and hear about the lives and culture of these
young students who will share stories from ordinary people who are living inspiring and impactful lives. The program is sponsored by the Rupp Debate Society.

Our guest, Professor, Raphael Chijioke Njoku, Chair of Global Studies at ISU will introduce the program and discuss the impact of the Rwandan genocide.

Reception to follow.

Photo Exhibition

WHEN: Monday, October 24, 8am – Tuesday, October 25, 2016, 5pm

WHERE: Frazier Hall - Second Floor

COST: Free

Powerful photographs will be on display exploring the theme of the post-genocide generation.

Rwandan Debate Team Biographies

Bruce Intwali Murangira, 21, is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Law at the University of Lay Adventists of Kigali (UNILAK). He is a passionate debater and poet who believes in the power of the word, whether spoken or written, to impact meaningful change in society. Murangira is currently Head of Student Training at iDebate Rwanda.

Harmonie Isabane Muhumuliza, 19, is a recent graduate from Glory Secondary School in Kigali and is currently interested in pursuing her undergraduate degree in communications and international relations with the aim of becoming a journalist.

Angela Kagabo, 17, is currently a sophomore at Kigali International Community School and a member of the school debate team. Angela is interested in pursuing a career in law. She believes as a lawyer she will have the chance to be an agent of change and address many of the critical issues facing our world today.  

Sharon Kirezi Bayingana, 17, recently graduated from Wellspring Academy in Kigali. Sharon is a writer, blogger, and spoken word artist & performer. She is interested in pursuing her undergraduate degree in communications and public relations.

Bahizi Eric Habineza, 25, is a recent graduate from the University of Arkansas with a degree in Finance. He works and lives in Dallas, TX but is in the process of moving back home to Kigali. He aspires to be a Management Consultant in the near future and to pursue a master’s degree in Business Analytics.

Full House at Electoral College Public Debate & Upcoming Events

Sean Illing, Nate Mortimer, Nate Graves, Erik Ekstrom, Mike Chen (Left to Right)                                    
On the eve of the last presidential debate for the 2016 election, the Rupp Debate Society, Idaho State University, hosted a public debate discussing the best way to elect future presidents. Sean Illing, Ph.D. and a journalist from served as guest moderator for the debate which lasted about an hour and fifteen minutes. An audience of one hundred watched the debate, posed questions during the audience participation portion of the debate, and voted to determine the winning team.

Dr. Zac Gershberg introduces Dr. Illing
Sean Illing moderates the debate.

The topic was: This house would eliminate the Electoral College and replace it with a popular vote for the President of the United States." Supporting the topic Nate Graves and Nate Mortimer argued that a direct popular vote was the best way to represent the will of the people and to make every vote count.  They also said that only 20% of votes count now due to presidential candidates' tendency to focus campaigning on swing states. Graves and Mortimer indicted the electoral college by suggesting that is has two levels of tyranny, the tyranny of the majority within states and the tyranny on the minority in national elections.    

Nate Mortimer and Nate Graves

Erik Ekstrom and Mike Chen rejected the topic arguing that we should repair the Electoral College through a proportional representation  plan that would link electoral votes to Congressional districts. They argued that a direct popular vote would allow candidates to ignore large swaths of the United States and focus only on highly populated areas. Additionally, they argued that their plan would best ensure protection against the tyranny of the majority and demagogues by preserving the electoral college while increasing representation.  

Erik Ekstrom and Mike Chen
Each speaker gave one five minute speech and one three minute rebuttal.  There was a 15 minute question and answer period in the middle of the debate where speakers answered questions posed by the audience and the moderators.  

The debate was decided by an audience vote.  The audience was polled both before and after the debate. The team who changed the most opinions was declared the winner.  Before the debate, 48% of the audience supported replacing the Electoral College with a popular vote while only 21% did not.  31% of the audience was undecided.  

Audience Poll Results Prior to the Debate

After the debate, 68% of the audience supported the motion to eliminate the Electoral COllege while 25% rejected the motion and 7% remained undecided. 

Audience Poll Results After the Debate
Notably, both teams increased support for their positions.  However, the team in support of the motion increased their level of support by 20% compared to 4% on the opposition side.  Therefore, Mortimer and Graves were declared the winners.  However, Moderator Sean Illing explained that he was more persuaded by the team arguing against the motion and that the team defending the electoral college had a more difficult job in the debate.  Consequently, both teams have something to celebrate and we are very proud of their performance last night.    
Opinion Shift Before and After the Debate
Next week, the Rupp Debate Society will be hosting the Rwandan debate team for three events. All events are free and open to the public. 
  • A photo exhibit in Fazier Hall (2nd Floor) Monday and Tuesday. 
  • A blended ISU/Rwandan Debate on Monday, October 24, at 6:00 pm in Rendezvous ABC on the question of forgiveness vs. justice in the wake of genocide.
  • A 15 minute documentary film and Rwandan student presentations Stories from a Post-Genocidal Generation in Business 104 on Tuesday, October 25, at 6 pm.

In 1994, over one million Rwandans were killed in a conflict between the Tutsi and Hutu tribes, leaving behind young people that now make up the majority of the population in the country. In 2003, over 80 percent of the killers were released back into the communities they once sought to destroy. The iDebate team from Rwanda will share their own stories and experiences of what its like to live in a post-genocide generation, and how they strive to live inspiring and impactful lives.

The first event will feature the ISU debate team and Rwandans debating in conjunction on the topic, “This house believes that in the aftermath of genocide, forgiveness is more important than justice.” The debate will take place on Oct. 24 from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Rendezvous Suites ABC.

“I think this event will be the first spark for people to start working together,” said ISU debater Cora Bidete. “It will allow us to see that there are cultural differences between us but regardless of that, there is a need for us to interact in a way that is positive and doesn’t insight an us versus them mentality.”

The next event titled, “Stories From a Post-Genocidal Generation,” will take place on Oct. 25 at 6 p.m. in the Business Administration building room 104. Raphael Njoku, Chair and professor in the Department of Global Studies and Languages, will introduce the topic and give a brief presentation, followed by a documentary about the Rwandan students’ lives and a question and answer session.

“This will be such a humbling experience to debate with these students,” said ISU debater Cameo Curnutt. “The more that we immerse ourselves in these different cultures the more that we can get rid of the ignorance and intolerance that we have seen here.

The photo exhibit will portray the genocide of 1994 and will be on display on the second floor of Frazier Hall from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on both Oct. 24 and 25.

Please join us for these events or contact with questions.  

Monday, October 17, 2016

Rwandan & ISU Debaters Tackle Forgiveness vs. Justice

Rwandan and ISU Debaters: Forgiveness vs. Justice
WHENMonday, October 24, 2016, 6 – 8pm
WHERERendezvous Suites ABC
EVENT TYPEAcademics, Campus Events, Diversity & Culture, Student Activities, Student Union
AUDIENCEAlumni, Current Students, Faculty, Future Students, Staff
In 1994, over 1,000,000 Rwandans were killed by their neighbors. In 2003, over 80% of the 
perpetrators were released back into communities they once sought to destroy. In 2016, 
over 61% of the population is under the age of 24.

Come see ISU and Rwandan Debaters pair off in blended teams to debate the topic: 
This House believes that in the aftermath of Genocide, forgiveness is more important than justice.

This event is free and open to the public. 
Refreshments provided.

Rwandan Debaters Tell Stories From A Post-Genocidal Generation at Idaho State University

WHENTuesday, October 25, 2016, 6 – 8pm
EVENT TYPEAcademics, Art, Campus Events, Diversity & Culture, Student Activities
AUDIENCEAlumni, Current Students, Faculty, Future Students, Staff, Other
Rwanda is a post-genocidal society. More than 61% of the population is under the age of 24. 
Join us as we view a 15 minute documentary and hear about the lives and culture of these 
young students who will share stories from ordinary people who are living inspiring and 
impactful lives. The program is sponsored by the Rupp Debate Society. 

Our guest, Professor, Raphael Chijioke Njoku, Chair of Global Studies at ISU will introduce the 
program and discuss the impact of the Rwandan genocide.
Reception to follow.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Debate Team Finishes in Semi Finals at Lewis and Clark Debate Tournament

Idaho State Debaters on the Lewis and Clark Trip, 2016
           On the weekend of October 8, 2016, Idaho State University debaters ended up as semi-finalists in a competition at Lewis and Clark College in British Parliamentary debate. Competing against schools such as Gonzaga and Seattle University, Bengal freshmen Nick Grunig and Nate Mortimer established their place at the podium with some of the best teams in the country.
Nick Grunig and Nate Mortimer
Their second time competing in the parliamentary format, Grunig and Mortimer broke into the semi-finals as the no. 6 seed after scoring an impressive 924 speaker points over the course of 6 preliminary rounds. The duo finished with a solid top 5 showing.
Nick Grunig
“I had no idea we were going to do as well as we did,” said Mortimer. “I knew Nick and I were going to do the best we could, but I had no idea. Especially against the competition, the competition was amazing.”
Mortimer led the ISU squad in the individual rankings with a 464 point performance that earned him the honor of being named as the 6th best speaker overall. Grunig’s performance backed up his teammate with an individual score of 460 points. A performance that placed him 16th out of 56 total competitors from the 28 teams in competition. 
Nate Mortimer
While the former Highland debaters were excelling in the open division, ISU’s Jonah Ruhter and Tristin Herrup-Wheeler accumulated a combined score of 879 points in the novice division, which resulted in a tie for the 8th spot. Although Ruhter and Herrup-Wheeler crafted a strong and consistent performance, they unfortunately missed the cut by just one spot. On the individual level, Herrup Wheeler placed 10th overall in speaker points by scoring 440 points, while Ruhter finished 2 spots behind his teammate with a score of 439. Cora Bidet and Mike Chen also represented ISU in the Senior Division.
Coming up next for the Bengals will be an exhibition style public debate which will debate whether or not we should continue to use the Electoral College to elect the President of the United States. The debate will be moderated by Sean Illing of  It will be held in the middle fork of the Salmon River Suites in the SUB on October 18th at 5:30 pm.  If you have any questions, please contact

Topics Debated at Lewis and Clark

  • THBT citizen-initiated referendum are harmful to the democratic process
  • THBT US should abolish mandatory minimum sentencing. 
  •  THBT the United States should make continued aid to Israel dependent upon a 2-state solution including a shared capital in Jerusalem.
  •  Resolved, The United States should abolish the electoral college.
  •  The international criminal court should indict Bashir al-Assad for war crimes
  •  TH should repeal the 2nd Amendment.

Open Division-28 Teams
Nick and Nate: Total Speaker Points-924, finished tied for 6th overall out of the 28 teams present.
1.       Round 1: 151 points, P2
2.       Round 2: 154 points, P2
3.       Round 3: 155 points, P3
4.       Round 4: 147 points, P4
5.       Round 5: 162 points, P1
6.       Round 6: 155 points, P3
Cora and Mike: Total Speaker Points-886, finished 24th overall out of the 28 teams present.
1.       Round 1: 143 points, p4
2.       Round 2: 151 points, P2
3.       Round 3: 146 points, P4
4.       Round 4: 155 points, P2
5.       Round 5: 147 points, P4
6.       Round 6: 144 points, P4
Novice Division- 16 Teams
Jonah and Tristan: Total Speaker Points-879, finished 9th overall out of 16 teams present.
1.       Round 1: 144 points, P2
2.       Round 2: 143 points, P4
3.       Round 3: 144 points, P4
4.       Round 4: 150 points, P2
5.       Round 5: 149 points, P3
6.       Round 6: 149 points, P2

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Sean Illing to Moderate Public Debate at Idaho State University

Join us on the 17th and 18th of October.  On the 17th, Sean Illing of presents "Is Too Much Democracy a Bad Thing?"  On the 18th, Illing will moderate a public debate hosted by the Idaho State Debate team.  

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Photos from Our Most Recent Tournament at Rocky Mountain College

Morning harvest moon on the way to meet the debaters 
Group Picture at Earthquake Lake
Ethan and Nate
Cameo and Mike

Team on the rocks at Earthquake Lake
Ethan leaping

Ethan and Cora

Nate and Nick going to debate.

Assistant Coach, Andy

Kyle and Cameo prepping for a debate

Cora and Ethan prepping for a debate

Cora and Ethan prepping for a debate

Nick and Nate prepping for a debate 

Mike and Sydnee prepping for a debate

Mike prepping

Monday, September 26, 2016

ISU Director Contributes to Debate Strategy Book

Recently, Idaho State Debate Director Dr. Sarah T. Partlow Lefevre contributed to a book outlining Donald Trump's strategies in the primary debates.  The book is written by debate coaches and communication professors from around the United States.  All proceeds are being donated to two nonprofit organizations, The Women's Debate Institute and the JW Patterson Foundation for Excellence in Debate. It is available in paperback and on Kindle on Amazon.

 Debating the Donald is available at

The description of the book on Amazon: "Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump entered the 2016 election race with no political or debate experience. He had extremely low expectations heading into his first primary debate hosted by Fox News in Cleveland, Ohio on August 6, 2015. Trump took advantage of this and easily won the first debate, which catapulted him to permanent frontrunner status and he never looked back. He participated in ten additional primary debates, while choosing to boycott the event in Des Moines, Iowa in January of 2016. Nearly 200 million viewers watched the GOP primary debates and Trump’s reality television star background played a major role in this phenomenon. In “Debating The Donald”, a dozen debate experts from around the United States analyze Trump’s performances in the primary debates. They discuss what techniques were employed by the candidate to yield successful results. Finally, the authors predict how style and content from Trump’s primary debates will influence his three general election showdowns with Hillary Clinton in the fall. The first Trump-Clinton debate at Hofstra University in New York will have a Super Bowl-like atmosphere and will truly be must-see TV."

Dr. Partlow Levefre was also quoted in the lead story of the USA today leading up to the first 2016 presidential debate between Clinton and Trump.

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