Mercer’s Debate Society reveled in success last year under second-year coach James K. Stanescu. The team defied state borders and qualified to compete at the national level where they became tournament champions at the Florida State University Debate Invitational in December and semifinalists in the State of Georgia Championship in February.
Individual speakers from Mercer won both first and second place awards at the State of Georgia Championship, with freshman Hunter Pilkinton placing first, and senior Cameron Kunzelman second. Two Mercer teams went on to the national competition held at Western Washington University, composed of Kunzelman, Pilkinton, senior Alvin Huff and junior Mariah Sappington.
“The Mercer Debate Society is not only focused on winning tournaments and bringing home awards, we are also focused on spreading the importance of debate for education and democratic civic engagement,” Stanescu said. “That is why we are working with members of the Peace Corps to help set up curriculum for an Ethiopian all-female debate league . . .we have volunteered for judging at high school speech and debate events across the Southeast region of the United States, several members of the team have also volunteered their time coaching high school debate teams and helping to start up new high school debate programs, as well as working with the Next Level Development Center to create a debate summer program for at-risk Macon teens.”
Standard debate rounds consist of two teams who are assigned a topic and told whether they are to debate in favor or in opposition. Teams are then allotted 20 minutes to prepare prior to the start time. Topics range from current domestic and international issues to values based notions to ethical and policy qualms.
“A good debater needs to have a grasp of a variety of issues,” said Stanescu. “The skilled debater needs to be up on current events, have a mind for the details of the way that the world works and still be able to keep the ethical and philosophical big picture present.”
Mercer University’s Debate Society for the 2011-2012 season was composed of seniors Kunzelman and Huff, juniors Sappington and Lee Godsey, sophomores Jamel Johnson and Andrew Obelgoner, and freshmen Pilkinton, Lindsey Hancock, Caleb Maier and Daniel McNeill.