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Debaters represent College on world stage

The College’s debate team is making its voice heard around the world with a relentless pursuit of success that kept some of its members busy throughout winter break. 

Ashley Vogt, junior English major, and Morgan McElroy, junior nursing major, flew to the Philippines to compete in the World University Debate Championship (Worlds) from Dec. 27 – Jan. 4.  

The top collegiate debaters from around the world gathered in Manila for the World University Debate championships. (Photo courtesy of Morgan McElroy)

 “Worlds is the Olympics of debate,” said McElroy, the club’s executive adviser and recording secretary. 

“It’s the most competitive international tournament for college debate,” Vogt, the president, added.

TCNJ Debate is starting to establish itself as a force on the national debate scene even though it is only in its fifth year of existence.  After turning in a strong performance on this trip to De La Salle University in Manila, the club has shown it is capable of debating with premier teams from around the world as well. 

Approximately 1,400 debaters from 40 different countries participate in Worlds — competing in the tournament is not something that either of these students would take on lightly.

“It’s such a competitive tournament,” Vogt said. “The last thing you want to do is go and embarrass yourself, your school and your country on an international scale.”

The club held its own , however, arguing topics from immigration to nationalism, and pulling out 13 points in the nine-round tournament.  

“I’m really proud of how well we did given that it was our first Worlds,” McElroy said.

College juniors Ashley Vogt (left) and Morgan McElroy travel to the Philippines for debate. (Photo courtesy of Morgan McElroy)

Moving beyond this successful venture, the club is seeking to establish itself as a more permanent fixture, both in the collegiate debate world and on campus. 

“We’ve been at a little bit of a disadvantage because we’ve sort of been pulling ourselves along in the dark, trying to feel our way,” Vogt said. “But we have been getting more competitive.” 

TCNJ Debate suffered from the graduation of many of its founding members last year, but Vogt and Morgan have stepped up to take leadership in the organization.  An influx of new members, however, has provided a challenging yet bright future.

“I love all of our freshman and they’re learning so fast and they’re doing so well already, that I feel like they’re going to be in a really good position to be competitive.” Vogt said. “They’ll do a really good job of drawing people in and keeping them there because they’re so passionate about it.”

With the encouragement and aid of the Dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Ben Rifkin, as well as many others at the College, TCNJ Debate is competing with schools that have significantly larger budgets and longer legacies.  

“Debate at TCNJ is a champion for the values and goals we hold most dear in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences,” Rifkin said. “I am particularly proud of how debaters work to read and think analytically and communicate effectively in speech.” 

Rifkin is working with the club as it prepares for its next big step toward national prominence and personal achievement — a debate tournament hosted here at the College.

Despite the protest of some members of their governing organization, the American Parliamentary Debate Association, the club was granted the right to host its own competition on Feb. 10-11.  Proponents argued that TCNJ Debate had done more than anyone else in preparing a bid and deserved this tournament.

Upwards of 100 debaters from many different schools will participate, and the final rounds will be open to public viewing in the Brower Student Center.

Brendan McGrath


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