The Gallaudet University debate team made the semifinal round of the annual Social Justice Debates national championship February 10-12 at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. The team improved on its quarterfinal finish in 2022, and solidified its stature as one of the country’s top forces on the debate circuit in only its second year of intercollegiate competition.

This year’s topic was “To create a more equitable economy in the United States, a worker cooperative model should be broadly adopted.” Seniors Lexi Hill and Aubrey Moorman, last year’s debaters, were joined by sophomore Lorelei Becktel-Lipscomb as Gallaudet won three of its four opening round matches to advance to the quarterfinal round. They defeated debaters from Virginia State University and Randolph-Macon College, lost to Claremont College, and rebounded to defeat the University of Vermont. In the quarterfinal round, their fifth match of the day on Saturday, they defeated Vanderbilt University to advance to Sunday’s semifinal round. 

Gallaudet’s run ended with a loss to host school and eventual repeat champion Morehouse College. Lorelei Becktel-Lipscomb was named Best Novice Debater and second best overall debate in the opening (pre-playoff) competition. Hill and Moorman both won the Novice award last year, as well as awards for their performance in the opening rounds.

Left to right: Aubrey Moorman, Lorelei Becktel-Lipscomb, Gallaudet University Board of Trustees member Mindi Greenland, ’04, and Lexi Hill.

Thirty-four teams from 17 schools competed in this year’s Social Justice Debates national championships. (Some schools fielded multiple teams.) Participating schools included the six opponents listed above, plus Western Washington University, Patrick Henry College, College of Idaho, Rust College, Loyola Marymount University, Appalachian State University, George Washington University, the University of Miami, the University of Rochester, and the University of North Georgia. Three schools – Morehouse, Virginia State, and Rust – were Historically Black Colleges and Universities. 

Dr. Brendan Stern, ’06, is head coach, and Dr. Jeff Miller is assistant coach. Stern is a faculty member in the Government and Public Affairs program and executive director of the Center for Democracy in Deaf America, while Miller teaches in the Business program. Both are in the School of Civic Leadership, Business, and Social Change. 

“I could not be more proud of Aubrey, Lexi, and Lorelei’s growth as debaters,” said Stern. “They conducted research, developed arguments, and responded to rebuttals with rigor and flair.” 

Continued Stern, “I would like to specifically thank Morehouse College for their generous hospitality; Dr. Jeffrey Miller for working with the team behind the scenes; Adam Bartley and his team of interpreters for their incredible work; and Lexi and Aubrey’s parents and Board of Trustees member Mindi Greenland for attending in person and showing the debate community why Gallaudet has the best fans in the world.”

According to Stern, Morehouse College debate team coach Ken Newby captured the essence of Gallaudet’s participation in the Social Justice Debates national championships at the awards ceremony: “Gallaudet’s success … the last two years shows that nothing is impossible when access is provided.”

The debate team is competing this weekend in the BP Novice National Debate Championship at the University of Rochester. Their final match of the 2022-2023 academic year will be with the United States Naval Academy on April 20 here on campus.

Congratulations to our team, its coaches, and the Center for Democracy in Deaf America for a stellar performance!

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