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Seawolf Debate


Periodicity by S T E V E J O H N S O N Periodicity \pir-ē-Ə-'dis-Ət-ē\ n. The quality or state of being periodic; recurrence at regular intervals.


ne of the most appealing features of an academic life is its cyclical nature. Each fall begins with a new class of students, unburdened by previous experience and fresh with enthusiasm for embarking on a new adventure. Of course, that virtue is also a shortcoming; regardless of the time you spend developing a productive working relationship individuals involved in debate, they will inevitably move on. This spring marks a point of transition for the Seawolf Debate program that brings the duality of periodicity into stark relief. In the last two years, we have graduated many of the exceptional students who have contributed to making the program the international powerhouse it is today. Akis Gialopsos, Michaela Hernandez, Colin Haughey, Brett Frazer, Sarah Carpenter, Drew Cason and Amie Stanley are names familiar to all of you from the press releases of the last couple of seasons. We are also losing a terrific assistant coach in Shawn Briscoe, who has moved on to attend to other priorities in his life. These individuals came together with perfect serendipity: their talents and commitment, matched with the resources and focus of the team, led the team to a new era. Over the last two years, the Seawolf Debate program broke three teams at the Worlds Debating Championships, saw three semifinalist and one finalist (continues on pg. 2)

Senior, Brett Frazer argues for justice at the UAA vs. Stanford exhibition round

Stanford Twitter Experiment by E M I B A R K E R & A N D R E W K E R S O K Y


ith 30 minutes to go we’d run out of seats, and by the start eager spectators occupied every inch of walkway, chair, stair, and balcony. Both the motion, “This house would abolish the imposition of additional penalties for hate crimes,” and the speakers, Stanford University’s Faris Ali Mohiuddin and Michael Baer against UAA’s Brett Frazer and Drew Cason, promised an exceptional evening and it seemed as though the whole community had turned out to watch. Cason and Frazer had the challenge of debating on the proposition while Baer and Mohiuddin were tasked with defending penalty enhancement. The debate itself was an intensive event for not only those speaking but also for the UAA team behind the scenes. As a promotional experiment, Andrew and I were asked to live-tweet the debate.

Both teams performed at the top of their game, founding their case on sound strategy and strong I caught only glimpses of the stage. Squeezed by a crush of people, I strained to listen and furiously type on my phone. At some point I realized this was awesome. argumentation and never surrendering ground without an impassioned response. With each speech it became only more difficult to remain unswayed. By the summary speeches, both sides had firmly established their intellectual ground, and used their final minutes to highlight their best argumentation and compare it with the opposing team’s efforts. (continues on pg. 4)



team at the US Universities Debating Championships, and climbed in the official World Debate Council’s ranking to the 9th most competive program in the world and second in the US. This is not the first time we’ve had outstanding competitive success. In 1996, Ryan Warren and Sparrow Mahoney were the first Alaskan team to make the Semifinal round of the NPDA Championship tournament. Laure MacConnell was perhaps the most successful IE competitor in UAA’s history, with an over two-year streak of making the elimination rounds of every tournament she attended (including the AFA-NIET championship tournament). Jenny Burgess and Quianna Clay were back-to-back rookies of the year

in 1998 and 1999. Erica Cine and Quianna Clay went on to qualify for the semifinal round of the NPDA Championship in 2000. Chris Richter and Ben Garcia won the NPDA National Championship in 2002. Tom Lassen and Michael Rose won the inaugural US Universities Debating Championship in 2006. In 2007, Chris Kolerok and Tom Lassen made it to the semifinal round of the World Universities Debating Championships. This doesn’t begin to inventory our extraordinary acheivements in regularseason competition—there are literally too many awards to list. Nor does this account for the terrific success enjoyed by the program before I arrived—a legacy to which the dozens of trophies


from 1982-1995 in our trophy case attest. The promise of periodicity is that the cycle will continue. No one individual is the program, and no one phase is the pinnacle of our competitive success. Each generation is the custodian of a long tradition of success, contributing to the team’s story their individual chapters of effort and accomplishment. The future of the program is bright: not only do we retain some of individuals associated with the past few years of success (Amy Parrent, in particular), we are blessed with a new crop of debaters inspired and influenced by those who came before them. Already we’re seeing the fruits of their efforts, both in the outcome

Left: Up and coming Seawolf debaters, Matt Ostrander, Kelsey Waldorf, and Amy Parrent, in between rounds. Below: Outgoing coach, Shawn Briscoe, speaks with Seawolf debater, Matt Fox, at the Middle School Public Debate Championships

of our recent competitive efforts and community outreach. And the program’s manadate of public engagement continues to expand with the hosting of the inaugural Middle School Public Debate Championship tournament and the incredibly successful exhibition debate with Stanford University. So while it’s sad to see the present period come to an end, the departure of these talented individuals also serves to mark the beginning of an even more promising period to come. And that cycle, as reliable as an Alaskan springtime breakup, is what will set the course of the Seawolf Debate program for generations to come. ◊

Seawolves Inspire Next Generation by W I L L I A M C A S O N


his year, I had the privilege of coaching the Chugiak High School DDF (drama, debate and forensics) team, as well as competing at the collegiate level. Besides Chugiak, three other high schools in the district had coaches affiliated with UAA: Shawn Briscoe at South, Nick Byrne at East, and Mike Baum at Dimond. At the beginning of the season, unsure of exactly how to be a debate coach, I recited some of Steve’s presentations on argument structure and basic strategy. For the actors, I translated any applicable debate advice— tell better stories, speak clearly, and engage more with the person next to you. None of the students had competed in DDF the previous year either, so we learned together.

Though I had judged at many DDF tournaments, I found coaching to be a different and rewarding experience. By the end of the season, all three of Chugiak’s competing debaters made it to the Lincoln Douglass quarterfinals at the statewide competition, two made it to semifinals, and one made it to finals. I believe my team’s success came from the support by individuals like Shawn

Briscoe and Colin Haughey, who came to guest-coach at practice, and the UAA debaters who took the time to give feedback after competitive rounds. I thank and credit the Seawolf Debate program for inspiring me to be involved in the activity of debate, and ask that you consider donating to continue such a worthwhile program. ◊

was working on a brief on the status of Myanmar. Steve encouraged me to look for the underlying motives behind the actions of the many stakeholders in the region. Before that meeting, I thought of international relations in terms of timelines and events. Afterward, I began thinking in terms of the motives and goals of stakeholders in any given situation. Now, reading the news yeilds far more substantial information. That principle applies to any topic, not just inernational relations. I utilize it every day, from my ethics class to conversations with other students. In discussion-oriented classes like the media ethics course, I took this spring, I found the knowledge I had gained from debate regarding privacy rights, freedom of speech, and landmark court cases

for these issues invaluable. At debate practice, I learned many things about these concepts from more experienced debaters, which encouraged me to study them more on my own. Debate skills benefit me personally through honed critical thinking and in how I communicate with others. Traveling to tournaments and assisting with middle and high school debate programs are perks to being on the Seawolf debate team. But in a decade, I will still be reaping benefits from the skills I acquired while debating. ◊

Right: Top speakers from Middle School Public Debate Championships show off their trophies.

Debate Skills by H A N N A H F O R E M A N


hen I began debating last fall, I felt like I had jumped in the middle of an ocean. But even though I’ve spent the last school year trying to keep my head above water in the debate world, I’ve continued for a few different reasons. First, competition with students from elite schools around the country and world is exciting. Second– and more important– the skills I learn in debate are incredibly useful outside of tournaments or the debate squad room. I am becoming a better-informed and more skilled person intellectually through being a member of the Seawolf team. Overall, the debate skill I appreciate the most is discerning what the fundamental question of an issue or topic is. At the beginning of the fall, I


A Season for the Recordbooks

Amy Parrent, Brett Frazer, and Akis Gialopsos representing the opposition to a full house for public exhibition debate last fall.

by D A N A N O B E L O V S A K


he Seawolf Debate team sets two high standards for itself—to distiguish ourselves in competition and to encourage quality discourse. Each fall semester we focus on advancing competive success and each spring we volunteer our skills, time, and reasources to developing the Anchorage community. The Seawolves began the season with a bang, nearly blocking out finals at the University of Victoria Intervarsity tournament, and kept up the momentum by breaking two teams at the highly competitive Hart House IV, having teams breaking first and second seed at the University of British Columbia tournament, and two quarterfinalist teams at the CUSID British Parliamentary Debate Championships, not to mention all the individual speakers consistently meriting recognition in the top of the feild. In the run-up to the World Universities Championship in Manila, the Seawolf team rallied at the Melbourne and Sydney University Intervarsity tournaments. With half of the top ten debate programs in the world in Australia, this was the first opportunity to meet some of our toughest competition. Again, We distinguished ourselves at the Melboure IV, when the team of Colin Haughey and Brett Frazer ranked 9th out of the over 60 teams participating. The intercollegiate debating circuit culminates each December with the World Universities Debating Championships. 400 teams representing 195 universities from 43 nations competed in Manila this year. The teams are power-matched in nine preliminary rounds to determine the seeding (of the top 32 teams) for the elimination rounds. Of the teams from the United States—and the US had the largest contingent of any nation at the Championships—only six qualified for


William Smith College in the semifinal round. While they did not advance to finals, Frazer and Parrent had earned their place in the top 5% of debaters in US. Frazer also garnered honors as the 2nd individual speaker out of over 300 other students. Overall, it was a stellar season, with teams and speakers garnering awards at nearly every world-class tournament we attended. Today we celebrate these accomplishments, and strive to out-do ourselves in the coming season. ◊ For additional information on this season and previous acheivements, please visit our site:

the elimination rounds: two from Yale, one from Harvard, one from Stanford, one from Hobart and William Smith College, and the Alaskan team. When the dust of the nine preliminary rounds settled, the team of Haughey and Frazer had placed as the 23rd seed and finished the tournament amongst the top 8% of debaters in the world. Upon our return from Manila, the Seawolves jumped straight into the Spring semester by hosting Cabin Fever Debates, the Alaska State DDF competition, the Alaska Ethics Bowl, and the inaugural Middle School Public Debate Championships. Each event presented unique challenges and rewards, but before long the US Universities Championships and finals week beckoned. At USUDC, two UAA teams qualified for the elimination rounds. After the six preliminary rounds Parrent and Frazer earned the 5th seed overall, while Fox and Waldorf advanced as the 16th seed. Frazer and Parrent advanced through the first two elimination rounds to find themselves facing top teams from Vermont and Hobart and



The examples in these speeches were particularly crucial. Stanford demonstrated that graffitied racial slurs can affect the welfare of an entire community and thus deserved punishment beyond the crime of vandalism. UAA returned with a consideration of the broader implications to our criminal justice system when a crime’s motivation or victim dictates its punishment. From the outset, I envisioned that the live-tweets would reflect the moment-by-moment perspective of a critical observer, but once the debate got underway I caught only glimpses of the stage. Squeezed by a crush of people, I strained to listen and type on my phone. At some point, I realized this was awesome and did my best to keep up. The twitter transcripts read, “Wow, that graffiti analogy is a perfect distillation of opposition case,” and “Brett is doing an amazing job of recapturing presumption.” The experience was truly humbling. ◊ UAA vs. Stanford debate transcripts, video, and more are available online:

Cabin Fever Contagious? by M A T T S T I N S O N


Partner Dynamics by K E L S E Y W A L D O R F


aving a partner is great because when you lose your round you can blame in on them, and when you win, you can take all the credit for yourself. Well, perhaps not. In all seriousness, having a healthy relationship with your partner is crucial to successful debating. As a third-year member of the Seawolf Debate team, I have been paired with three partners and have observed a few things about working partnerships. Partnerships are formed on the Seawolf team following a complex algorthim based on Bayesian probability: Steve Johnson flips a coin and registers the resulting teams for next year’s World Championships. The Seawolf Debate team owes the entirity of its success to a thumb-worn nickel from 1971. Now you know our secret. I may not fully understand the science of pairing debaters; however, I have noticed that partners who are able to complement each other in skill and style do well. Trusting that your partner will have abilities and knowledge that you do not is invaluable. At least with debate partners, difference can be a strength. Two explosive, angry, and

energetic debaters most likely won’t succeed if paired together. A hyperorganized debater would be able to work with a less-organized partner. A matter-generator, a debater who comes up with arguments easily, would work well with someone good at critically analyzing arguments to determine which ones will be the most successful in a round. Someone who favors practical arguments would work well with someone who favors principled arguments. Debate partners’ strengths and habits often rub off on each other. Unlike many other types of partnerships, debate partners don’t have to have similar interests, or similar personalities; they don’t even have to like each other to be a successful team. At minimum, two people need to agree to work together and respect each other enough to listen to each other’s contributions. This is most important during prep time before a round begins. It’s a pretty stress-filled 15 minutes, and in my experience, how partners are able to work together (or not) during this time is indicative of the success they will have as a team. ◊

AA’s intramural debate tournament, the “Cabin Fever Debates,” creates quite a hubub on campus every spring semester. The tournament celebrated its 7th year this spring and looks to become even more popular next year. With over 40 teams pre-registering and a cap of 32 teams, we actually had 5 “alternate” teams and several individuals waiting in the wings. I’ve been lucky enough to see Cabin Fever grow over the years, first as a competitor then as a coach and judge, and I anticipate that next year the competion will be just as fierce. I competed in 2009 and 2010, where my partner (also cousin) and I were champions and finalists, respectively. I had never debated before Cabin Fever and it took my partner/cousin awhile to persuade me to sign on. I’m glad he was so persitant. Cabin Fever turned out to be a great idea, and I was hooked. Since then, I have become more involved with the Seawolf debate team, which means not only traveling and competing but also helping to facilitate events the debate team hosts. This year, I coached two friends of mine through the tournament. It was great working with them and developing their strengths, speaking styles, and arguments. All the hard work paid off when they advanced to Semifinals. They both told me afterward how much they appreciated and enjoyed the experience. It felt great to use the skills I had learned from debate and help others learn to communicate effectively in a public forum. ◊


Women in the Break


by A M Y P A R R E N T


or any debater, breaking at a tournament is exciting and nerve racking. The pressure of elimination rounds can be overwhelming, but it can also push you to perform at your very best. Elimination rounds usually draw a large audience, so the tension and energy are high in these rounds. As a female debater, I find myself to be a minority. Broadly speaking, debate continues to be predominantly male, though there is a growing trend of talented female debaters. Some of the most exciting rounds I’ve seen had women from all over the world, including some places where women’s rights are tenuous at best. As a woman in the break, I sometimes feel underestimated by my male counterparts. Though this is sometimes frustrating, it doesn’t stop me, or many other women, from being successful. It can be advanteous to be underestimated by the opposing team. This year at the Worlds Debating Championship in Manila, the final round featured a team of two women from Oxford as well as a male/female partnership from Sydney. This is a promising step for not only female debaters, but for women as a whole. I believe that the world of debate is a microcosm of global circumstances. From the topics we debate, to the attitudes, beliefs, and assumptions we make, to the demographics of the debaters, this is a good representation of what our world and society looks like. I am so proud to be a part of an activity that inpires the world to be a better place by encouraging young women to become more academic, free thinking, and able to speak openly about issues facing us today. Needless to say, the system isn’t perfect. There certainly are ways we could improve conditions for female debaters. More girls, from a young age, should be encouraged to participate in debate. If girls are socialized to be


Seawolf Debate

quiet and agreeable and not to speak up, few of them will choose to persue careers that call for skills like contract negotiation, conflict resolution, and legal arguments. And it would be to their own and our society’s detriment. Just a few weeks ago, we hosted the first intermural middle school debate tournament in Alaska on the UAA campus. It was a great experience and the perfect opportunity to start fostering young women. As it happens, all five of the top speakers at the tournament were girls. If this trend continues, I look forward to seeing more women in the break at college tournaments, both for the good for the activity and as a positive sign of improving conditions for women around the world. ◊

Steve Johnson Director of Debate ADM/Humanities Bldg, Rm 262 3211 Providence Drive Anchorage, AK 99508 (907) 786.4391

Point of information from Finals at Middle School Public Debate Championships

The Tournament by M A T T H I E U O S T R A N D E R


ebate tournaments mean much more than a weekend Outside and a trophy—it is an experience unto its own. A typical tournament involves four to six preliminary rounds, then “the break,” with additional single elimination rounds culminating in the high stakes final round. Some of us thrive under pressure, and the fifteen minutes of time to prepare arguments on topics as illusive as “This house regrets the Eurozone” is a thrilling challenge. Since we don’t know what topics we will be debating in advance, we must be well-versed on current events and possess a solid understanding of principled concepts such as democracy, freedom of speech, and individual autonomy. Going to a tournament with the Seawolf Debate team requires intense hours of practice and preparation. Even if we do

not debate anything involving China’s military power at a tournament, the knowledge that the Chinese have more frigates than us is a very interesting (if somewhat misleading) fact. Our team’s dedicated preparation is what makes the difference at national and international competitions. This year, we successfully identified and prepared for several topics used at the US Universities Championships held at Willamette University and contributed to our teams strong showing. Between the accomplishment of winning a round because of your own hard work and the inspriation from engaging with intelligent peers from across the globe, the true rewards for the debate tournament are intangible yet unparalleled. ◊

Spring 2012  
Spring 2012