For 38 consecutive years, one University of West Georgia team has qualified to represent the university at their respective national competition: the debate team. The 38-year streak is fifth in the nation and saw the team reach the semi-finals twice and the “elite eight” three times.
The debate team has also competed with success on the national level at the Cross Examination Debate Association Nationals, winning the CEDA championship in 2000 over Michigan State and 2001 over Emory.
“We have a lot of things going for us in terms of national acclaim and renown,” said Dr. Michael Hester, the coach of the debate team.
The debate team came into existence 42 years ago, when Dr. Chester Gibson made what was then the debate club into a nationally competitive team. Because intercollegiate debate does not have divisions, West Georgia has debated opponents from all over the nation, taking on some of the top debate programs in the nation.
“Everybody debates at the same tournaments,” said Hester. “For example, the opening tournament of the year is at Georgia State and Emory will be there which is Division III athletically, Wake Forrest will be there which is Division I athletically, and West Georgia will be there which is Division II athletically.”
Because the program is comparable to an athletic team, the debate team is highly competitive. Anyone at UWG can join the team; however, that does not mean you will compete.
“We do not shoot to have maximum participation. Instead we shoot to get the best debaters we can, competing at the highest level possible,” said Hester.
Last year, a mere four debaters traveled regularly to tournaments, a number which has only increased by two for the upcoming season. Two of the returning debaters, sophomores Damiyr Davis and Miguel Feliciano, made it to the round of 16 in last year’s National Debate Tournament. Coming into this year, the duo will be considered a top ten team, proven by a bid to the Kentucky Round Robin, an invitation-only tournament for the top eight teams in the nation.
To prepare for the upcoming season, many of the debaters have been teaching at high school debate camps, in which college debaters teach high school students how to debate, or work at college camps.
“I did not help with any high school camps. I did, however, work with a college camp, The Arizona Debate Institute, and my experience there, as a fellow, revitalized my love for debate while allowing me to serve a young cadre of talented debaters from across the country,” said debater Osayame Gaius-Obaseki.
The team will be debating the topic of Domestic Energy Production four times throughout the fall semester, attending tournaments at Georgia State, The University of Kentucky, Harvard and Wake Forrest. These tournaments, in addition to a few more in the spring, will prepare the debaters for the National Debate Tournament, held at Weber State University, and the CEDA National Tournament, held at Idaho State.