Big Red Talkers

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Cornell students head for Berlin in late December to secure Big Red's standing as number one in the world of university debate.

Ranked first among 800 teams internationally on Nov. 19, the Cornell Forensics Society is hoping to cop the 2012 title at the season's finale – the 33rd World Universities Debating Championships Dec. 27- Jan 4.

Based at the ILR School, the 100-student squad is sending three teams from five Cornell majors to compete in Germany:

  • Alex Bores ILR '13 and Daniel Blackman ILR '13, both majoring in Industrial and Labor Relations.
  • Ryan Yeh A&S '13, majoring in Economics and Psychology, and Kirat Singh A&S '14, majoring in Economics and Government.
  • Srinath Reddy, A&S '14, majoring in Mathematics, Economics and Government, and Julius Kairey A&S '15, majoring in Government.

They will be accompanied by two students who will serve as competition judges:

  • Paul Gross MILR '14
  • Christine Yu ILR '14

The debaters have copped wins and near wins in 2012 tournaments at the University of Toronto, Yale University, University of Vermont, University of Rochester and Hobart & William Smith Colleges.

Singh, the team's vice president of external affairs, said, the Cornell debate program is "particularly proud of the willingness of upperclassmen to invest their time in younger members of the team. They'll often help answer questions or host practice rounds for new members."

"Even during actual competitions, the dynamic continues; in between rounds, Cornell debaters are constantly checking up on each other, sharing arguments and providing encouragement," he said.

Yu, team vice president of internal affairs, said, "It is wonderful to see how the younger members take their cues from the older ones and perpetuate this culture of support and teamwork."

"We also have a huge freshman class that is exceptionally talented and competitive, which is a great incentive for the upperclassmen to continue to up their game," she said.

Thirty debaters are first-year students.

Sam Nelson, director of the university's forensics program and a senior lecturer at ILR, said, "We created a culture that second best is not enough."

Daily practices and a deep well of talent have contributed to the team's success, he said.

The group's campus home – ILR – is another reason, Nelson said. Since moving to the school three years ago, the team has received support "in every way," he said. "And that's been the difference."

Five years ago, Cornell wasn't ranked among the top 100 teams, Nelson said. Now, it's only the second American team to make it to the top slot. Yale University, knocked to number two by the fresh ratings, was the other top-ranked school.

Other teams in the current top 10 are from Canada, England, Australia and the Philippines.

More information about the current rankings is at