October 18, 2007

Debate team achieving early season successes

by Andrea Hahn

debate team studio

Caption follows story

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The Southern Illinois University Carbondale Debate Team takes on Creighton University this weekend after a great early season start at Claremont College near Los Angeles and at William Jewell College in Kansas City, Mo.

Todd Graham, director of the debate program, said he was pleased with how well the teams finished in the tournaments, noting they are carrying on the winning tradition the debating Salukis established in recent seasons.

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers and camera crews may attend debate team practices on Tuesdays beginning at 3:30 p.m. in the debate room on the second floor of the Communications Building. Team members can discuss recent and upcoming tournaments and what they expect to gain from participation on the SIUC Debate Team. Call Director Todd Graham at 314/495-7278 or 618/453-5090 to confirm.


Graham said debate helps refine skills useful to students in many different disciplines, including research, organization, analytical thinking and critical listening.

"It's a popular misconception that you have to be a great speaker to debate," he said. "We can teach communication skills. What you need is an open mind and the ability to understand different points of view and to think individually with some skepticism. Debate is in everybody – we can all argue."

"I decided to join because I knew the debate program at SIUC is regarded as an excellent one, and also because Todd Graham is probably the best coach in the country," Adam Testerman, a sophomore in cinema and photography from Springfield, Mo., said. Testerman debated with teammate Josh Campfield, a freshman in communications from Kansas City, Mo., at the major Claremont College season opener. The team finished the tournament tied for ninth place overall. Campfield teamed up with Kyle Dennis, a senior in business from Blue Springs, Mo., in an invitational round robin debate that same weekend, finishing fourth overall.

"Debate teaches how to think critically and also how to research – both of which are practical skills that will definitely be useful in 'real' life," Testerman said. "Debate also stresses the importance of being well-informed about the world in which we live, which is increasingly important and also, unfortunately, more rare in the American public in general… It's refreshing to be at a school that recognizes the benefits associated with academic extracurriculars…. I believe the school should be proud of the debate program they have invested in."

Kevin Calderwood, a sophomore in political science from Chesterfield, Mo., opened his season finishing second out of more than 70 teams at Claremont College with Dennis as his partner. He said participation in debate keeps him knowledgeable about politics, current events, philosophy and other areas of academia. "I am interested in the policy-making process, and debate is an outlet to learn about policy-making, while also partaking in competition," he said.

Calderwood said he chose SIUC because of Graham's reputation as a debate coach. Calderwood said he would be satisfied "the moment we bring a national championship to SIUC."

"It was a great start for them," Graham said, referring to the Claremont College debate. "To have our youngest team doing so well at the first major tournament of the year shows just how good they are, and how good they are going to be in the future. And Kevin and Kyle were debating almost flawlessly… I think they have set themselves up to be one of the best teams in the country."

Earlier in the season, the debate team was at William Jewell College in Kansas City for a top-10 invitational round robin. Dennis and Testerman teamed up to take third place. The college also held an invitational tournament with 40 teams. Dennis teamed up with Calderwood again and the two were the only undefeated team after the preliminary rounds. They finished fifth overall.

"SIUC has had a team finish in the top five in every tournament so far this year," Graham said. "We are very consistent, and consistently solid."

After Creighton, there is one more debate tournament before Christmas, at California State University in Berkeley.

Other members of the debate team include: Katie Thomas, a junior studying political science from Fort Collins, Colo.; Nicholas Deml, a junior studying political science from La Crosse, Wis.; and Benjamin Haas, a graduate teaching assistant from Cordova, Ill.

Caption: 2007-2008 SIUC Debate Team – The Saluki debaters started the season with top five finishes in two elimination tournaments and two invitational round robin tournaments and brought home a pile of team trophies and individual awards to show for it. The team is, standing, from left to right: Josh Campfield, Kyle Dennis, debate program Director Todd Graham, graduate teaching assistant Benjamin Haas, Kevin Calderwood and Adam Testerman. Seated are Katie Thomas and Nick Deml. The ghoulish trophy in the center is for a second place overall finish at Claremont College, which hosted a major national tournament to open the season. The trophy’s theme is a tongue-in-cheek acknowledgement that coming so close to winning and then finishing second can be agonizing. The other trophies are for ninth place for Testerman and Campfield at Claremont’s elimination tournament; fourth place for Campfield and Dennis at the Claremont round robin tournament, thrd for Dennis and Testerman at the William Jewell round robin, fifth for Dennis and Calderwood at William Jewell elimination. Individual trophies are for Testerman, 14th at William Jewell open invitational; Dennis, third at Claremont round robin and 15th at open invitational; and Calderwood, 11th at Claremont open invitational.

Photo by Russell Bailey