Cumberlands debate team to take on team from Rwanda

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WILLIAMSBURG, Ky. (WTVQ Press Release) – Anyone can disagree. But can they debate? 

Debate is a fast-paced academic sport that is not for the faint of heart. It pushes debaters beyond their perceived abilities.

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They have to think on their feet, control their emotions, withstand pressure, and balance time constraints. Critical thinking skills are sharpened, wits are tested, and debaters finish the year as stronger thinkers and better orators than when they began. 

The University of the Cumberlands debate team has too many trophies to fit in the office where they usually practice. As it turns out, the team comes out swinging just as hard in virtual competitions as they’ve done in person.

For example, they placed third in the nation — out of 25 schools —  in debate sweepstakes overall in Division II sweeps at the National Christian College Forensics Association tournament held online March 25-28.

And now, the team has its sights set on Rwanda. 

The debate will be Monday, April 19, at 1 p.m., hosted online via Zoom. Debaters for the event will be seniors Alex Agdeppa (Creedmoor, NC) and Anuj Dutta (Pathankot, Punjab, India). Always unafraid to tackle current issues, the teams will be debating the topic “social media companies should fact check posts by world leaders.”

To watch the debate, visit the Zoom link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84160774707?pwd=UVJldHVOa2gyTEp3cW1udlNOQzF6UT09.

“Learning more about a topic like social media that affects all of us, and hearing more from an international perspective, is a valuable learning opportunity for us,” said Jay Bourne, director of forensics speech and debate and professor at Cumberlands. 

The Rwandan team, iDebate Rwanda, was created in 2014 and has held debate events with schools like Penn State, University of Southern California, Yale, Wake Forest University, and Harvard. University of the Cumberlands is proud to be the first Kentucky team iDebate Rwanda has competed against. 

“I am excited for the upcoming debate. It’s another challenge for me, and I plan to give my best,” said Anuj Dutta, a senior who has debated for almost two years at Cumberlands. “I’ve been giving my best at every debate tournament, and every accomplishment is meaningful because I was able to learn, meet new people, and improve my debating skills.” 

Cumberlands plans to host a second debate with the Rwandan team in fall 2021. That debate’s date is yet to be determined. 

Even during such an unusual year with unprecedented challenges, the Cumberlands debaters have found ways to thrive. Like everything else in 2020-2021, debate had to be restructured. Debaters met with their coach, Jay Bourne, every week this fall in a lecture hall instead of their typical, smaller office space, to allow for social distancing. They also scheduled one-on-one practices and scrimmages throughout the week. 

Bourne said, “It has been an interesting year, to say the least, but the debate team is still continuing an active role on campus and actively participating in tournaments against teams from across the country in online competitions.  We are, as always, grateful for the university support and funding of our debate team, and we look forward to future accomplishments throughout the academic year.” 

In late October 2020, the team participated in their first online virtual tournament of the year. At the first leg hosted by Seton Hall, the debate team tied for first in overall wins with Marian University. Alex Agdeppa placed 5th overall, Anuj Dutta placed 6th, and Gus Bouff placed 7th in debate. There were 14 colleges and universities at that competition from 9 states, and included Seton Hall, Hofstra, Cornell, and Rice University. 

At the second leg of the debate tournament hosted by the Southern and Northern Atlantic Forensics Association, the team tied for 4th overall out of 22 schools from 12 states, tied with the University of Central Florida, and placing behind West Chester, Seton Hall, and Kent State University. Alex Agdeppa was the 3rd place speaker at the tournament, and Alex and Gus Bouff both placed in the top 10 debaters overall (7th/ 8th). Other teams participating in the competition included Rutgers, Bowling Green State, Bradley, St. Joseph’s, James Madison, West Texas A&M, George Mason, and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. 

In November, the team competed in a virtual online tournament hosted by Grossmont College in California. Out of more than thirty colleges and universities, Cumberlands tied for 1st among schools east of the Mississippi with Tulane University. 

In December, the team competed in an online tournament hosted by Abilene Christian University in Texas. Among 15 competitive teams (including Union University, LSU- Shreveport, SMU, Southern Mississippi, and MTSU) University of the Cumberlands received four awards, including the second consecutive break for Anuj Dutta, the top place speaker award, and the Quality Award for highest percentage of preliminary wins by a university.