STU Debate Society Argues its Way to Second-Place Finish at Dalhousie Invitational

The St. Thomas University Debate Society argued its way to a second-place finish at the Dalhousie University Invitational—the best placement for the student-led group since its revival in 2017.

Alexandre Silberman, a second-year student from Burlington, VT, and Victoria Young, a first-year student from Winnipeg, MB, represented STU as debaters at the event, while Sayan Chatterjee, a fourth-year student from New Delhi, and Jessie Cross, a first-year student from Middle Arm, NL, competed in the public speaking rounds where Cross placed in the top six.

“No one really expected us to break into the semis and then advance to the finals,” Silberman said. “We didn’t set any expectations. We went into the competition with confidence and took it one round at a time.”

The competition, which used Canadian Parliamentary style debate, had five regular rounds. The top four teams advance to the semifinals with the winners of those debates squaring off in the championship round. 

At the Dalhousie Invitational, the STU group was pitted against teams from Memorial University, Mount Allison University, Saint Mary’s University, and the host Dalhousie. In each debate, the university representing the government brings its own case and the opposition has 15 minutes to prepare its argument before delivering a seven-minute speech.

“You have to come up with your whole speech on the spot,” Silberman said. “It’s a format of debate that’s really modeled after the actual system used in government. When people think of debate they often think it’s just a back and forth with people cutting each other off, but for us it’s very civil, very structured, and it’s all about constructing really good arguments.”

Some of the cases argued involved creating a media subscription tax credit to encourage individuals to subscribe to newspapers, banning fighting in hockey, and giving individuals sentenced to life in prison the option to opt for the death penalty instead.

The event at Dalhousie, along with competitions attended at St. Francis Xavier, Mount Allison, and McGill, served as preparation for the upcoming Atlantic Championships hosted at Memorial University, March 1-3.

“Debate competitions are great at developing communication skills, learning how to properly construct an argument, and being able to think clearly through an argument to have constructive dialogue,” Silberman said.

“This last competition has put us on the map. We’re an up and coming society. We have a lot of momentum heading into the Atlantic Championships, so I’m excited to see where we place.”