Philomathean Society Not to Compete in World Qualifying Tournament

Philomathean Society, Andover’s debate team, will not attend this year’s Hotchkiss School Debate for the first time in four years. The team is not allowed to attend the tournament because they were unable to receive permission from the Office of the Dean of Studies. “My understanding was that the teams [to attend the tournament] were set. So, if you were on a team, you could find yourself in a position of having to let your team down in order to stay [on campus] to study for exams,” said John Rogers, Dean of Studies. Roger said he felt that it was not fair to put students in that position.“I felt that it was not fair to put kids in a position to make that kind of a decision.” Kate Wiener ’11, Co-President of Philomathean Society, said, “We tried to convince [Mr. Rogers] that our students would know ahead of time that they were selected to go and could say no if they felt that the competition would impair their performance on exams.” Chris Meyer ’11, Co-President of the Philomathean Society, said in an email, “If Sunday is the only day students plan to study, then they will suffer on their exams regardless of whether they attended the tournament or not.” Meyer is a Commentary Editor for The Phillipian. Philomathean Society was able to attend the Hotchkiss tournament last year even though the event posed a conflict with Assessment Week. Rogers said that last year’s competitors did not seek permission from Rogers to attend the Hotchkiss tournament. “I suspect that if no one brought it to my attention I certainly wouldn’t have gone out of my way to find out about [the tournament],” said Rogers. Rogers said, “…I’m going to make the decision that makes it clear that studying for your assessments is the top priority on [the day before assessments start].” According to Meyer and Wiener, the Hotchkiss debate is one of the most important tournaments of the season for the Philomathean Society. Wiener said, “[The Philomathean Society] has done really well at [Hotchkiss] in the past … it is extremely important to us as a club because it is a Worlds qualifier and would provide an opportunity for some of our members to compete [at the Worlds competition in] Australia this spring.” According to Meyer, Hotchkiss is, “after the Andover Invitational, the most important date on our debate calendar.” Hotchkiss is part of the Debate Association of New England Independent Schools (DANEIS). Anywhere from ten to fifteen schools typically show up for this highly competitive Worlds qualifying tournament. Meyer said sending students to the Hotchkiss tournament is beneficial for the club and the school because “when an Andover student qualifies for Worlds, he or she reflects very [well] upon the reputation of the school.” The Hotchkiss tournament is a parliamentary style debate, in which the participants arrive to the tournament with no prior knowledge of the debating topics. Once presented with the resolution, the debaters have ten minutes to create a case. For the Andover team, a group that specializes in parliamentary extemporaneous debate, the Hotchkiss tournament was the last major parliamentary tournament for the year and for the Seniors on the team. Meyer said, “We were planning on making this tournament our final hurrah.” Rogers said he understood that “it can seem like a total drag” for Seniors who may have only a few assessments and wish to participate in the tournament. “[My decision] has nothing to do with not wanting to be supportive of Philomathean—debate is great,” said Rogers. Rogers said that certain events, such as scheduled athletic games and tournaments, that conflict with Assessment Week are approved by the Office of the Dean of Studies. “Sometimes whole teams have to be gone the day before assessment [periods] start, but we don’t have any choice about that, because it is a part of a series of events that, as a school, we have committed to,” said Rogers. Hyunji Koo and Brian Delaney contributed reporting.