Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University Debate Reflects on Successful Year

Courtesy of the Seattle University Debate Union.

The Seattle University Debate Union (SUDU) is all about gathering information on the spot, defending a statement and holding its figurative ground. SUDU is a club where students can join to practice and hone their debate skills while improving public speaking in a competitive atmosphere. 

Jim Hanson is the speech and debate program’s director. Hanson’s duties include heading and coaching the debate team while handling all the debate union matters. Some of the tasks include setting up Seattle U tournaments and planning trips for the teams. 

The union has had more than a dozen tournaments this year. The tournaments are held around the United States, and some of them include international students from countries such as China and Pakistan. 

According to Hanson, the tournaments have been promising this year.  

“We’ve had a good year. We have a young group, but they’ve done really well. We had a team in the semi-finals at Vanderbilt, which is a big national tournament for United States teams. That same team was in [the] finals of first-year students at the National Championships,” Hanson said. 

In addition to semi-final appearances at the Vanderbilt tournament, SUDU had a team take first place at the Northwest Forensic Conference tournament at the Air Force Academy in Colorado. The union has also held tournaments in places such as Tennessee, Oregon and Hawaii.

But before the tournaments and competitions, SUDU works to strengthen its members’ skills. The team participates in time-sensitive, knowledge-heavy activities like writing a speech in eight minutes and defending a topic they were given on the spot. 

The teams also meet before tournaments to practice their skills and speeches. Alex Cruz, a third-year business and law major, has been on the debate team since his freshman year. Cruz explained how the tournaments play out.

“[Judges] look at the arguments and they judge it based on a couple of things. First of all, is the argument unique?… Then it’s judged on, does it flow through the round?… Does it stand up to the reputation that it gets? Are the debaters able to defend their argument in their speeches well enough?… typically three judges, two to three—they’re called the panel—and they’ll sit there and they’ll talk these things out, and then they’ll decide. You know who gets first, second, third, fourth,” Cruz said. 

Cruz has dedicated time to crafting his speech and improving his communication skills to better his debating performance. Cruz attributed much of the experience he has gained in that regard to SUDU. 

“It really helped a lot with public speaking… You’re delivering a lot of speeches in front of a lot of people. But, I honestly think that some of the stuff it’s helped me with a lot more is critical thinking skills and being able to just think on my feet and work out complex logical puzzles basically in my head,” Cruz said.

Besides those skills, Cruz shared how being part of SUDU has helped him grow his network of friends with similar interests. 

“It also has been super helpful, I don’t wanna say tool necessarily, but kind of like a tool for helping me get other stuff… Dr. Jim Hanson employs me as a coach for his company Climb the Mountain. I like it. I’ve gotten all these opportunities through the debate team,” Cruz said. 

Climb the Mountain is a speech and debate foundation program for young debaters who want to hone their debating skills. The foundation holds programs such as afterschool programs, summer camps, clinics for schools and tournaments. Hanson is the executive director of the foundation.

Trinity Diyal, a first-year criminal justice major, enjoys the welcoming environment at SUDU. Despite the competitive atmosphere that comes with debate, Diyal appreciates how everyone is open-minded regarding various topics. 

“We always have something to talk about. If we’re at dinner or something, there’s usually like 10 conversations somehow going on between a group of like eight people, and it’s super fun. I really like the environment. Everyone’s very nice and welcoming and fun,” Diyal said. 

SUDU fosters a strong and inclusive community where students come together from various backgrounds and perspectives. The union actively supports students in developing the skills needed to express and uphold their opinions by bringing them to tournaments. The union will continue to hold future events and tournaments after the summer break.

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