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Debate team encourages support at weekend tournament support

K. Arron Van Oosterhout | Friday, February 27, 2004

The Notre Dame debate team is inviting any and all students to heckle, cheer or simply observe the upcoming “Irish Invitational” this weekend.

Starting Saturday at noon and continuing until Sunday afternoon, the team is hosting the largest Midwest invitational of the spring semester, bringing 16 schools to engage in parliamentary-style debate at DeBartolo Hall.

“Crowds are definitely encouraged,” team president Meghan Callahan-Peters. “There’s heckling involved, and you can shame people.”

This is the second invitational in as many years Notre Dame has hosted. The number of schools attending has doubled, this year including such institutions as Indiana University, Hillsdale College, Purdue University and the University of South Carolina.

“[Hosting] elevates a school’s prestige. The program as a whole gets a boost,” Callahan said. “It brings more involvement from the Notre Dame community.”

As tournament director, team coach Kate Huetteman sent out invitations to each school, petitioned alumni to judge for the tournament and selected the “resolutions” for the debates.

Resolutions, or debate topics, come primarily from the political realm, ranging from international relations to domestic politics. Past topics include Bush’s policy on Iraq both before and after the war.

“You usually have to be more up to date as well as just have a wider knowledge base, because you never know what the topic is going to be,” Callahan said.

On the other hand, policy debate demands more facts and evidence to be successful.

“[Parliamentary debate] definitely teaches you how to think on your feet,” Callahan said. “Even if you don’t know an exact fact about a topic, you can come up with a logical problem with it.”

Already a formidable opponent in debate circles, the team finished eighth last year in the National Parliamentary Debate Association’s season-long sweepstakes. “Sweepstakes awards” are given only to the top schools at any particular tournament.

According to Callahan, the Notre Dame team is one of the best in the nation. This coming weekend still looms large, however, and “there’s definitely more pressure” to perform well at home, Callahan said. “It should be a good tournament.”