The Chicago Debate Society (CDS) ended its 2006–2007 season on a high note at Vassar College’s American Parliamentary Debate National Championships in April. Third-year Stephanie Bell won the third-place speaker award and shared the seventh-place speaker award with her partner Reynold Strossen, also a third-year. The two were named the top team of third-years at the competition.
CDS relied heavily on novices after the graduation of several experienced debaters left gaps in the lineup this year. The graduated members composed the core of the team for the past few years, having revived CDS after the team faced near dissolution in the late ’90s, according to team president Bridgit Fahey.
“Those original members who reconstructed the team finally graduated. We newer members got to do what we wished, such as increase our participation in national tournaments as well as world tournaments. There was a lot of teaching ourselves,” Fahey said.
Losing some experienced members to graduation, CDS found depth in novice debaters.
“These are the best novices I’ve seen,” said Fahey, who has been involved in debate since her first year. “They work really hard; they picked up on debate immediately. It was really natural to them.”
First-year Ben Field, a novice on the team, said the thrill of competition lured him to CDS.
“We had a novice tournament at the beginning of the year, which increased my interest,” said Field, who began debating in high school. “After doing well at Brown, my partner and I did well, and I was hooked at that point.”
Fahey suggested that awards were not the only form of success for CDS this year, commending the team for overcoming potential organizational difficulties.
“[The] debate team changed a lot this year,” she said. “We used to have one stand-out team at a time, but now we’ve had a lot of teams have success, which is a changing model for us.”
Debaters pointed to camaraderie as not just a reason to join the team, but also as an asset in competition.
“The camaraderie is not as pronounced as other organizations,” Field said. “However, one big thing that’s really nice is there’s really very little distinction between more senior members and younger members. Pretty much if you show that you’re capable of competing, then it doesn’t really matter how old you are. Especially when you’re away at tournaments, we’re definitely very close-knit.”
Top teammates Strossen and Bell echoed this sentiment, saying their positive rapport became a winning dynamic.
“Stephanie and I share a gestalt,” Strossen said.
“A lot of success in this activity is about the way in which the way your thinking pairs with your partner’s way of thinking. It’s really beneficial that Reynold and I have such different interests and academic backgrounds because it allows us to tackle a large range of issues,” Bell said. “There was a friendly, cooperative vibe on the team this year that didn’t exist before.”
Strossen and Bell placed first as a team at the Stanford tournament in March, with Bell winning top speaker, the top individual award. Bell also won the top speaker award at the Harvard tournament in October. The pair won third-place team at Princeton and were the top undergraduate team there.
Bell said she looks forward to more success.
“Though I am incredibly sad about the loss of my partner, Mr. Strossen, the rest of the team has incredible amounts of potential, much of which has already been realized,” Bell said.