Jewell debate partners win national debate tournament

The latest chapter in William Jewell College’s storied debate program was written in gold earlier this month.

David Hansen, Sterling, Utah, and Katelyn Johnson, Spanish Fork, Utah, both senior communication majors, won the 2016 National Parliamentary Debate Association (NPDA) Championship tournament earlier this month. This was Jewell’s first team championship at the NPDA, the largest parliamentary debate championship.

Over a three-day period, the duo bested more than 170 debate teams from across the country and finishing 6-2 in the preliminary rounds to advance to the elimination round. Hansen and Johnson beat Southern Illinois University in the finals while arguing in the affirmative on the topic: “The United States federal government should require all telecommunications companies to provide backdoor access to their encryption protocols.”

In parliamentary debate, teams of two typically have 20 minutes to prepare for a topic, which changes each round. Each side makes three speeches on any given topic.

“Over the course of the tournament, we won 33 out of a possible 40 ballots from our judges, including a rare 7-0 unanimous decision in the final round,” Johnson said. “Our coaches and teammates were so supportive. We were lucky to have so many people to help us prepare our arguments. The future of this team is really exciting.”

Hansen and Johnson are coached by Kyle Dennis, director of debate, and coaches David Bowers and Lauran Schaefer. California State University at Long Beach hosted the tournament.

“We’ve come close before, but this is the one championship in parliamentary debate that has eluded us,” said Dr. Gina Lane, chair of the Department of Communication and Theatre. “I am very proud of them and our coaches.”

Roughly 170 teams entered the tournament, and preliminary round records advanced the top 64 teams to a single-elimination tournament.

Hansen and Johnson were not the only Jewell team to advance to the elimination rounds. Mia Richardson, senior Oxbridge Institutions and Policy major, Kansas City, Kan., and Stefanie Flood, first-year Oxbridge Honors Program and accounting major, Kansas City, Mo., advanced to the elimination rounds with a 5-3 preliminary round record before losing in the second round to the University of Utah. All other Jewell debate teams finished preliminary debates with a 4-4 record.

“Unlike athletics, there are no divisions in college debate. We debate against such schools as the University of Oregon, the University of California-Berkeley or the University of Missouri,” Dennis said. “The results show that our best students can compete with their best students.”

About the William Jewell Debate Team

Since 1873, Jewell debate has remained one of the longest running and most successful programs on campus. The team competes in the National Parliamentary Tournament of Excellence (NPTE) and National Parliamentary Debate Association (NPDA) national tournaments, as well as annual tournaments both regionally and nationally. Notably, the William Jewell Debate Team was declared the 2014 NPDA College Debate National Champions.


Caption: National Parliamentary Debate Association National Tournament champions and William Jewell debate team members David Hansen and Katelyn Johnson pose with their trophy Thursday, March 24, 2016, at William Jewell College in Liberty, Mo., along with coach Kyle Dennis, director of debate.

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