Philomathean Society Adds to Trophy Case With First Place Win at Invitational Debate

Welcoming 36 teams from 14 schools, the Phillips Academy Philomathean Society hosted a debate of the USA Patriot Act last Sunday. Students argued both for and against the Patriot Act. The debates, which were split into three rounds, took place in Samuel Phillips Hall and in Morse Hall. Phillips Academy debaters won several awards, including Second Place School in the Novice Division and First Place School in the Advanced Division. The Advanced Division victory came after a narrow three-way competition between Groton, Saint Paul’s, and Andover. Jessica Schuster ’05, Cage Brewer ’06, Will Scharf ’04, and Nick Smith Wang ’05 won Second Place out of advanced four-person teams. Alison Occhuiti ’06 and Jonathan Gruskin ’07 placed first in the two-person novice division, while Daniel Bacon ’06 and Rosie duPont ’06 placed second. Nick Smith Wang ’05 also won third place in the individual speaker category for advanced debaters. “We did extremely well,” said Philomathean Society President Matt Cohen ’04, expressing his sentiment that the performance of PA debaters is a testament to both the skill of advanced debaters and to the potential of novices. “Overall, I was impressed by the performance of debaters across the board,” he continued. Cohen also noted the success of Will Scharf ’04, who had never debated formally prior to Sunday’s event. “He was really impressive,” said Cohen. “Overall, I was very pleased with how the Invitational went,” said Head of Membership and Training Ben Elkins ’04. “As with every debate tournament, despite our best efforts we did encounter some snags on the day of the event, but we still managed to stay on schedule throughout the day, which was one of the board’s major goals for the tournament,” he said. “[Our debators] sacrificed not only their entire Sunday for the tournament itself but also a large part of their Saturday for final preparations for the debate, and it was very satisfying to have those sacrifices rewarded with success,” he continued. He also noted that a record number of schools participated in the Andover Invitational. There were a total of 170 participants, including many from what Ling Ling Wei ’04 referred to as “the better-prepared debating schools.” The tournament included three rounds of Oregon-style debate in both the novice and advanced categories. Novice debaters argued one position throughout the debate, while advanced debaters argued one position during the first two rounds and then switched to the other position. “The format for Oregon debate is seven-minute constructive speeches, three-minute cross-examinations and four minute rebuttals,” explained Philomathean Society faculty advisor and Director of the Oliver Wendell Holmes Library Elisabeth Tully. “To win the debate, the affirmative must justify the adoption of the change proposed in the resolution by showing that it is desirable on the grounds of necessity, probable advantage, or the likely attainment of worthwhile goals, and attainable through means stated or implied in the resolution, without significant disadvantages.” “For the negative side to win the debate, it must show that the adoption of the resolution is not warranted,” she continued. According to Ms. Tully, this can be accomplished by proving that no necessity for modification of the current situation exists, that there are inherent disadvantages to change, that the status quo is preferable to the proposed course of action, or that a resolution different from that proposed by the affirmative should be pursued. During the debates, both the affirmative and the negative presented a wide range of arguments. Affirmative arguments for repealing the act included the increase of powers held by the Executive Branch of government resulting from the Patriot Act, as well as the threats the Act poses to basic civil rights. The negative argued that the Act has been effective thus far, that it has not negatively impacted civil rights, that it has historic precedent, such as President Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus during the Civil War, and that it merely combines several older laws.