The University of Louisville debate team were finalists in their first national tournament of the season this past weekend.

Courtney Brown and Thomas Gordon, both new to the team, ended the tournament in second place. Gordon also received recognition as the second ranked speaker in the tournament.

“I felt the tournament was a great way to identify our strengths and weaknesses as a team and with our partners,” says Gordon. “To continue to have success, we have to minimize our weaknesses while developing our strengths.”

According to the Debate Team’s Program Assistant, Mary Mudd, this was all accomplished under the tutelage of Debate Director and Coach, Tiffany Dillard. Mudd claimed that Dillard’s guidance has helped them grow into a force to be reckoned with in only two months.

The Malcolm X Debate program has been on U of L’s campus for many years but has frequently struggled finding a home department. However, two years ago, the program found a permanent home for its nationally recognized policy team in Pan African Studies.

“PAS is a good fit for the program mission and the argument strategy employed by the squad,” says Mudd. “This challenges the exclusionary practices of the activity, which were developed by a community overwhelmingly populated by wealthy, white males.”

Mudd also stated that a high number of debaters leave the activity and enter careers in law, politics and business so the consequences of this homogeny is a political culture in which the policies that are supported are those that can be won, not those that can effectively address and resolve social programs.

For many years, the National Association for Urban Debate Leagues, an organization that provides debate programming to urban middle and high school students, trained minority students with hopes of increasing diversity in debate. The NAUDL has had some success with these efforts, but the students trained were not making the transition to collegiate debate. Because of this, the Malcolm X Debate program staff radically shifted its structure and began focusing on the recruitment of African American students.

U of L has been honored to train the first African American woman to win the top two speaker awards at the national championship tournament, as well as being home to the first African American woman to win the National Female Coach of the Year award, says Mudd.

The team travels to at least five tournaments per semester at schools such as, Georgia State University, Vanderbilt University, UC Berkeley, University of Southern California and Harvard University.

The season runs from the middle of September until early April.

For students interested in applying for the debate program, Mudd says they should have a strong record academic success and exhibit an interest in social justice.

“The benefits of participation include the development of critical engagement with contemporary social and political issues, an ability to understand and synthesize complex theoretical concepts and the cultivation of graduate-level research and analytical skills,” says Mudd. “The majority of our past debaters have gone on to earn advanced and terminal degrees in many disciplines and/or have distinguished careers in social justice organizations all over the country.

The team meets on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 8 – 10 a.m., in the Debate Squad Room of Stevenson Hall.