ASU debaters go the distance in national tournament

two students holding a plaque

Arizona State University seniors Peter Chotras and Rohit Rajat made it to the sweet 16 in the Cross Examination Debate Association Nationals Tournament – a feat unmatched by any ASU student since 2000.

The tournament was held March 19-23 at Wichita State University. The Cross Examination Debate Association (CEDA) is the largest intercollegiate policy debate association in the United States.

The tournament hosted more than 50 schools from around the country and consisted of 116 two-person teams that debated a 2014-2015 topic: The United States should legalize all or nearly all of one or more of the following: marijuana, prostitution, online gambling, the sale of human organs and physician assisted suicide.

Of those 116 teams, only 43 earned winning records to advance to the elimination rounds.

“I am really proud of what they have done so far, they’ve worked really hard,” said Izak Dunn, assistant director of debate at ASU. “So seeing that pay off in terms of wins and success and recognition is really satisfying because they deserve it.”

Rajan and Chotras also each received the CEDA National Debate Scholar Award during the tournament's award ceremony. The Summa Cum Laude award recognized debaters with the highest possible academic records: 3.75-4.00 GPA.

The two ASU seniors debated their way into the elimination round of the tournament, making it through the preliminary rounds with a record of 6-2 that included victories over UNLV and Dartmouth College. By virtue of their record, Chotras and Rajan were the 11th seed for the elimination bracket, and were able to bypass the round of 64, before competing in the round of 32 teams. In that debate, they defeated a team from Central Oklahoma in order to advance to the Sweet 16.

“One thing that is so great working with Peter and Rohit is that they use every opportunity they can to get better,” Dunn said. “From round one of the first debate of the year all the way to the last one, they are always using it to get better.”

The CEDA National Tournament is not the last stop for these seniors. They will represent ASU at the National Debate Tournament, April 3-6, at the University of Iowa, after placing first at their district-qualifying tournament by winning 7 out of 8 debates against other National Debate Tournament hopefuls from the Arizona/California/Nevada region.

The two seniors will compete against 77 other teams from across the country, including Harvard, Northwestern and Cal Berkeley. Unlike CEDA, which has an open-entry format, teams must qualify to be invited to compete at the National Debate Tournament. 

“Peter and Rohit have debated for ASU for four years. They embody everything we try to instill in our students: hard work, perseverance, and leadership. Their performance at CEDA positions them to perform well at the National Debate Tournament,” said Adam Symonds, ASU director of forensics (speech and debate).