The Gallaudet University debate team continued its impressive run at the British Parliament Novice Nationals, held at the University of Rochester February 17-19 in Rochester, New York. Senior Lexi Hill and sophomore Lorelei Becktel-Lipscomb advanced to the grand finale against teams from Princeton University and Stanford University, as well as Hobart and William Smith Colleges, which won the competition. The Gallaudet team placed fourth out of 48 teams.

“For me as a senior, it’s cool to experience going to the championship round,” says Hill, who was just as excited to see her teammates, sophomore Aubrie Bauer and freshman Clark Barrett, compete in the rookie division. They placed ahead of rookie teams from Cornell University, Rutgers University, Bates College, and other schools. It was the first debate tournament experience for Bauer and Barrett, and the first time the Gallaudet debate team has sent two teams to a tournament.

The Gallaudet debate team was created in the 2020-2021 academic year as part of Gallaudet’s Center for Democracy in Deaf America, led by executive director Dr. Brendan Stern, ’06, a faculty member in the Government and Public Affairs program.

This was also the first time the Gallaudet team has debated in the British Parliament format. In the past, the team has competed in public forum debates, which release topics in advance of an event. “With public forums, you do a lot of research, and write and rewrite your arguments,” Hill explains. In a British Parliament debate, however, participants do not know the topics until just before they need to present. “We have 15 minutes to prepare and we are not allowed to talk to anyone,” she says. “It’s a new topic every round — it can be economics, science, history, art, politics, ethics, education, anything.”

Clark Barrett, Aubrie Bauer, Lorelei Becktel-Lipscomb, and Lexi Hill

Topics take the form of motions presented by a hypothetical government. Examples from this tournament included “This house supports parents strongly monitoring the Internet activity of their children” and “This house believes that there should be a standard Black History curriculum required in high schools.” Then each two-person team is assigned one of four roles: opening government (in support of the motion), opening opposition, closing government, and closing opposition. Teams compete in every round, and are constantly tackling new ideas.

It was stressful but stimulating, says Hill, who learned the process as she and Becktel-Lipscomb went through the first six rounds, followed by the quarterfinals, semifinals, and grand final. Her favorite moment was when they were assigned to be opening opposition for a motion that atheists should take a pill that makes them genuinely and earnestly believe in their country’s majority religion. During the preparation time, they were deciding how to frame their argument. “I asked my teammate, ‘If someone gave you a pill and you would become hearing tomorrow, would you take it?’ She said immediately, ‘No,’” Hill says. “We had our deaf experience to bring to the table. No one was able to challenge that.”

The debate team’s final match of the 2022-2023 academic year will be with the United States Naval Academy on April 20 on the Gallaudet campus.

Recent News

Stay up to date on all the gallaudet happenings, both stories, and initiatives, we are doing with our Signing community!