KU Debate Opens Season in Impressive Fashion

The KU debate squad opened the season September 17-20 with teams competing at two national tournaments, in Kansas City and in Atlanta, and the teams performed extremely well at both tournaments. The KU duo of Sion Bell and Quaram Robinson took first place at a tournament hosted by the University of Missouri- Kansas City and the KU team of Jacob Hegna and Henry Walter took 3rd place at a tournament hosted by Georgia State University.

Quaram Robinson, a junior from Round Rock Texas, and Sion Bell, a sophomore from Baltimore MD, began the season where they left off last year. They ended the season last year finishing as the National Runner Up to Harvard at the National Debate Tournament and began this season by winning the season opener at UMKC. They defeated the University of Southern California in the final round to win the first major tournament of the year. They rolled through the tournament undefeated finishing with a 12-0 record. They defeated teams from Baylor University, the University of Iowa, the University of Oklahoma, Binghamton University, Georgia Mason University, the University of Central Oklahoma, Weber State University and USC. Robinson won the first place individual speaker award and Bell was the 6th place speaker.  The KU team of Brandon Boyce and Alondra Garcia-Arevalo, freshmen from Emporia KS, advanced to the quarterfinals in the Junior Varsity division to begin their college careers.

Meanwhile other KU teams were competing in Atlanta.  The team of Jacob Hegna, and Henry Walter, both sophomores from Overland Park KS, advanced to the semifinals of the tournament before losing a 2-1 split decision to the University of California at Berkeley. In their run to the semifinals they defeated teams from Northwestern University, Georgetown University, the University of Pittsburgh, Emory University, George Mason University and two teams from Wake Forest University. A second KU team, Chris Fry, a sophomore from Overland Park, and Will Katz, a junior from Topeka, advanced to the final 16 of the tournament. They pulled a major upset over the 3rd seeded team in the tournament from Emory University to reach the final 16 but were matched up against Hegna and Walter who advanced over them. A third KU pair, Chris Birzer, a senior from Leawood KS, and Mac Cook, a senior from Shawnee KS, advanced to the elimination rounds before losing a 2-1 split decision to Northwestern. A fourth KU team, Amit Bhatla, a senior from Shawnee, and Saif Bajwa, a freshman from Overland Park, won five of eight debates but just missed qualifying for the single elimination rounds. Chris Birzer was the 20th individual speaker at the tournament.

                Scott Harris, the David B. Pittaway Director of Debate at KU said, “We are thrilled at the excellent start to the season. We have a number of talented and hardworking debaters and we have hopes for an outstanding season.” The debate team will travel to 20 tournaments around the country between now and the National Debate Tournament in March. KU will be hosting the National Debate Tournament at the end of the 2016-17 season at the Edwards Campus in Overland Park, KS March 23-27. KU has qualified to the National Debate Tournament for 49 consecutive years.​
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KU Debate Team National Runner Up

– From Coach Scott Harris –

The KU debate team of Sion Bell, a freshman from Laurel Maryland, and Quaram Robinson, a sophomore from Round Rock Texas, finished 2nd at the 70th National Debate Tournament in Binghamton New York.  KU lost in the Championship Debate to Harvard University. The final round took place at the same time as the Men’s NCAA Basketball championship game. They are the 15th KU team to advance to the Final Four of the NDT and the 6th KU team to reach the championship debate.

The final round was the culmination of four days of competition in which the field of 78 teams was narrowed to Kansas and Harvard.  Each team in the tournament debated in eight preliminary debates and the top 31 teams Debate Team 2016

qualified for single elimination debates. Bell and Robinson began the tournament with 5 consecutive wins over the University of Southern California, George Mason University, the University of California-Berkeley, Wake Forest University, and Trinity University. They then lost back to back debates to a 2nd team from the University of California-Berkeley and the University of Kentucky before bouncing back with a win over Northwestern University in the final preliminary debate. They advanced to the elimination rounds with a 6-2 record as the 13th seed. In the first elimination round they defeated a team from Emory University to advance to the Sweet 16 and the final day of competition.

In the sweet 16 they met the 4th seeded team from the University of California-Berkeley in a rematch and defeated them for the second time in the tournament.  In the Elite Eight they had a rematch with the 5th seeded team from Berkeley that had defeated them in the preliminary rounds and this time KU emerged victorious to advance to the Final Four. In the semifinals they defeated the University of Michigan, the top seed at the tournament and the team that had entered the tournament as the 2nd ranked team in the country.  In the championship debate KU lost to the Harvard team that was the top ranked team in the country. Bell and Robinson had entered the NDT as the 17th ranked team in the country.

A second KU team composed of Chris Carey, a senior from Westwood Hills Kansas, and Amit Bhatla, a junior from Lenexa, went 5-3 in the preliminary rounds and qualified for the single elimination debates. In the preliminary rounds they defeated the University of Texas, Indiana University, the University of Wyoming, Central Oklahoma University, and the University of West Georgia. They lost in the first elimination round to the Berkeley team that Bell-Robinson would later defeat in the Elite Eight.

Quaram Robinson was recognized as the sixth best individual speaker at the tournament. Scott Harris, the David B. Pittaway Director of Debate at KU said, “We are incredibly proud of the performance of the debaters at the NDT. Quaram and Sion had an amazing tournament with 6 wins over teams ranked in the top 10. Making it to the final round was a testament to their talent and hard work. I am very grateful to the hard work of all the assistant coaches who helped them on this remarkable run.” According to Assistant Coach Sean Kennedy their performance included some historic achievements. Sean claimed, “They are the first team not ranked in the top 16 going into the tournament to make it to the final round since rankings began in 1973; they are only the 2nd team of two non-males to debate in the final round and Quaram is the first black woman to ever compete in the final round.”

It was announced during the tournament that the University of Kansas will be the host for next year’s National Debate Tournament to be held March 23-27, 2017. Coach Brett Bricker stated, “We are very excited at the prospect of bringing the NDT to the University of Kansas for the first time.”

KU teams also performed well at other national tournaments.  The team of Jacob Hegna, a freshman from Austin Minnesota, and Henry Walter, a freshman from Overland Park Kansas won the National Junior Division Debate Tournament, a national championship for debaters in their first two years of college competition. It is the third consecutive year that KU has won the NJDDT Championship. The team of Chris Fry, a freshman from Overland Park Kansas, and Will Katz, a sophomore from Topeka Kansas took 3rd place at the tournament.  The team of Lainey Schrag, a freshman from Overland Park, and Tyler Woodcock, a freshman from Leavenworth finished in 5th place. At the Cross Examination Debate Association national tournament the team of Hegna-Walter finished in 9th place.

COMS 342 Raises Money For Great Cause

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This semester, $627 was raised for The Sexual Trauma and Abuse Care Center in Lawrence by graduate student Haley Vellinga’s COMS 342: Problem Solving in Teams and Groups class.

The class was split into 4 teams and each team raised the money through four different fundraising events. “Team Grade A” held a dodgeball tournament at the Union. “Team Jayhawk” held a percentage night at Buffalo Wild Wings. “Team Impact” partnered with Premier Martial Arts in Lawrence and held a Self Defense workshop. “Team J-ELM” partnered with the Lawrence Community Center and held a swimming event.

This is the first semester Haley Vellinga has taught this class. A previous instructor, Phil Wagner, had similarly partnered with The Sexual Trauma and Abuse Care Center in the past, and Haley decided to continue the tradition of focusing and advocating for this cause.

In the upcoming Spring semester, she and her class of COMS 342 students will have a chance to double their efforts when she will teach two separate sections of the class. That’s eight teams of undergraduate students all working towards the same cause. That’s the power of Problem Solving in Teams and Groups, the COMS 342 class. The real-world solutions that these students are learning is of great value for the here and now as well as the future.

The names of the COMS 342 students that participated are:
Meredith Brownell, Brooke Buckner, Maddie Dobyns, Kagen Fell, Joey Hurley, Mercedes Jellison, Megan Lindemann, Uzzie Martinez, Amy Melby, Spencer Painton, Lindsey Peterson, Cathy Readman, Jared Singer, Cameron Smith, Michael Stigler, Madisyn Warinner, Jessica Washington, and Ezekiel Welch