The success of the William and Mary Debate Team is a little-known secret at the College.
p. Just this semester, the debate team has won tournaments at the George Washington University, University of Maryland and American University. The team won awards for producing the top speaker at Harvard University and Johns Hopkins University competitions, and currently stands at second in the nation behind Princeton University. The team also boasts the nation’s top speaker.
p. These accomplishments have instilled a sense of pride among the teammates, especially considering that the College’s debate team receives considerably less funding than teams from other universities.
p. According to team member Andy Hill ’08, the team has to pay a fee every time they participate in an off-campus event.
p. “It’s kind of amazing because we’re so pathetically under-funded,” Hill said.
p. Debate team President Lauren Bateman ’09 agreed.
p. “It’s been a really great accomplishment, especially because we don’t have the same funding,” Bateman said. “It’s really great to have achieved what we have this year.”
p. The debate team holds practices Tuesdays and Thursdays. Members are given the opportunity to participate in a tournament every weekend, either at the College or other institutions. While many of the tournaments are held in Washington, D.C., some are held as far away as Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. Every year, the College hosts two tournaments that usually attract about 20 colleges from around the nation.
p. “I’ve learned a lot about how to speak in public,” Ben Strahs ’09 said. “It’s really helped me learn about my rhetoric.”
p. Strahs, now in his third year on the team, decided to enter debate because of a high school friend who had shared his debating experience. Bateman, however, was different.
p. “I did debate in high school, so I thought I would check it out,” Bateman said. “All of the people are so intelligent, and it’s really nice to have discussion within the college community.”
p. At a typical practice, members of the debate team are given five rounds totaling 45 minutes to discuss a topic spontaneously.
“It’s forced me to be ridiculously good at thinking on [my] feet,” Hill said.
p. Hill also recognized a larger contribution that the team has made to his college experience. “It’s been the most formative period of my life,” he said. “It’s definitely been the most important thing I’ve done at school.”
p. Bateman noted the contributions the team has made not only to its members, but to the College community as a whole.
p. “It’s good that we provide a face for academic discourse,” Bateman said. “We hope, given the recent accomplishments, to start more on-campus debates and involve more of the William and Mary community.”
p. Given the team’s success, members see little reason this should not be so.