Parliamentary debaters develop team that makes Chicago powerhouse againBy Josh Schonwald
On Saturday, March 6, on the campus of Stanford University, it was finally official: the University of Chicago is, once again, a national powerhouse in parliamentary debate.
In winning Stanford’s parliamentary debate tournament, the Chicago Debate Society not only won its first debate tournament in more than 20 years, it did so in impressive fashion.
Fourth-year duo Jake Steinberg and Thane Rehn took home the tournament’s first place prize, while Greg Cheyne and Tim Fletcher won top novice team. Three other Chicago teams placed in the tournament’s top 10—Matt Landauer and Ian Kemp placed sixth, David Siffert and Josh Libling placed eighth, and Jeremy Glaser and Rebecca Knapp placed 10th.
All told, three Chicago debaters placed in the top 10 varsity speakers at the tournament—Jake Steinberg placed fourth, Matt Landauer eighth and Thane Rehn, the team captain, 10th.
Perhaps more important, the Stanford victory is the culmination of a historic season for Chicago debaters.
Earlier in the year, the team made its first trek to the hallowed hall of international debate: Oxford University’s Union. There, competing against the world’s best debaters, team captain Rehn was ranked ninth overall and was given the “best international speaker” award. Moreover, throughout the year, the Chicago team of Rehn and Steinberg has consistently been ranked among the top 10 intercollegiate debaters by the American Parliamentary Debate Association, and first-year Tim Fletcher has flirted with the top of the APDA’s national rankings in the “novice” category.
This year’s success is particularly sweet because of the team’s recent history. In the mid-1970s, Chicago was regarded as the nation’s powerhouse in parliamentary debate—a lesser known and less frequently practiced form of debate in the United States, which emphasizes extemporaneous thinking. But over the past two decades, Chicago’s parliamentary debate team fell out of favor with students and struggled to recruit team members. At its nadir, the team had just one active member.
But four years ago, an influx of first-years, including Rehn and Steinberg, revived the club. Now the team’s Wednesday night practices in Cobb Hall attract upwards of 50 students.
The results of the Stanford tournament—the first victory for the Rehn/Steinberg team after four years of college debate—push the duo to eighth place in the APDA’s “Team of the Year” rankings. Tim Fletcher is in second place for the “Novice of the Year” Award.