January 24, 2014

Campbell earns top individual debate honors

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Southern Illinois University Carbondale debating whizz Ben Campbell was the top individual debater at the Mile High National Parliamentary Debate Association tournament last weekend. 

He wasn’t as happy as he might have been.  It was the first tournament of the season that he and partner, Josh Rivera, did not win.  They finished in second place. 

Campbell, a senior political science major from Springfield, Mo., and Rivera, a junior political science major from Chicago, are the front-runners in the rankings for the National Parliamentary Tournament of Excellence, the national championships of collegiate debate.  They won every debate tournament they entered in the first half of the 2013-2014 season. 

The SIU team was at the University of Utah on Jan. 18-19 for a pair of the largest debate tournaments on the NPDA schedule.  In the first of the two tournaments, Campbell and Rivera placed second behind a duo from Whitman College.  The debate coaches, though, voted Campbell as the best overall debater of the tournament.  

The duo started strong in the second tournament, but ended in a tie for fifth place. 

“It was a great weekend, with one second place and one fifth place,” Todd Graham, director of SIU’s debate program, said.  “However, we set the bar awfully high this year by winning so many tournaments, so I’m afraid we were not as pleased as we might have been with this kind of success.” 

Graham noted that all eyes in the collegiate debate world are on SIU. 

“We have to remember we have been fortunate to win so much, and that other universities are trying very hard to beat us.  We are the top-ranked team in the country, and that bulls-eye is pretty inviting for our competitors,” he said. 

The National Parliamentary Tournament of Excellence is set for March 16-18 at Northern Arizona University.