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ASU liberal arts, sciences students selected for national speech and debate tournament

ASU students
March 19, 2015

Four College of Liberal Arts and Sciences students will represent Arizona State University March 20 at a national debate tournament.

Seniors Rohit Rajan and Peter Chotras and freshmen Zachary Brisson and Bren Ram will verbally spar with some of the best collegiate debaters in the nation as they compete in eight elimination rounds of public policy debate.

“It’s the most competitive tournament of the year,” said Peter Chotras, a mathematics and economics senior. “[There are] a lot of good teams there, but it will be really exciting.”

The Cross-Examination Debate Association holds tournaments throughout the year to encourage “policy topic intercollegiate academic debates.”

The 2015 Cross-Examination Debate Association College National Debate Tournament has 125 two-person teams competing in the event. Nearly 50 schools across the country are sending students to the tournament in Wichita, Kansas.

The association’s 2014-2015 topic is centered around what the United States should legalize. The teams can debate legalization of all, or nearly all, of these options: marijuana, prostitution, online gambling, the sale of human organs and physician-assisted suicide.

Brisson, a justice studies and English freshman, said he enjoys that participating in debates provides a chance to research things he wouldn’t look at normally. He said he spent about 10 hours each week researching and practicing for this year’s topic.

“I think it’s a solid examination of legal structures that exist in America,” Brisson said. “I think it gives the opportunity to delve into some important issues in those legal structures, in particular that criminalization is mobilized in certain populations.”

All four students are part of the ASU Forensics Team, a student club for those interested in speech and debate.

Adam Symonds, director of forensics at the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication, said the team normally sends more of its members to this open tournament. Last year, 10 students went to the tournament, Symonds said.

However, the team is hosting a state high school speech and debate tournament during the same weekend. The Forensics team will participate in three other national tournaments within the next month.

Symonds said he thinks both teams are equipped to participate. He said he expects the freshman team to win more than half of the eight elimination rounds and the senior team to be one of the top 16 teams if not better.

“They got four years under their belts, and they work really hard,” Symonds said.

The four students spent time researching the positive and negative arguments of the topic. Team members who are not attending the tournament also were assigned topics to research. Chotras said it was a team effort that helped him and the other three students go to the tournament.

“Even the ones who don’t attend do a lot of work to help people get there,” Chotras said.

Written by Alicia Canales

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