Debating union takes home two championship titles at Hart House

Tournament hosts best debaters from North American universities

Image supplied by: Supplied by Queen's Debate Union
Four Queen’s students won big at the tournament.

Two Queen’s Debating Union (QDU) teams brought championship titles back to Queen’s after competing at the University of Toronto (U of T)’s Hart House IV Tournament from Oct. 14 though Oct. 16. 

Diggory Waddle, MA ’22, and Nicholas Abernethy, ArtSci ’24, won the championship title for the tournament, while Jasmine Gao, ArtSci ’26, and Claire Chen, Comm ’26, took home the novice championship title.

Hart House IV is held every October at U of T and is considered to be the most competitive and best attended debate competition in North America. There were approximatley 80 teams competing at Hart House, of which 16 teams qualified for “out-rounds.” Other universities represented by competing teams included Princeton, Stanford, and McGill.    

Waddle began debating as an undergrad at Simon Fraser University. Although he’s won a few smaller tournaments, winning this championship title proved to be the highlight of his debate career. 

“I think you don’t ever really imagine winning a major tournament like this; like maybe you fantasize about it when you’re thinking at night like, ‘oh man, that would be so fun,’” Waddle told The Journal in an interview. 

“Even if I never win another debate for the rest of my life, I’ll be happy because I’ve been a Hart House IV champion.”

In debates, teams are assigned topics from tournament organizers and construct the most persuasive argument in favour of or against a topic. 

Waddle credits his and Abernethy’s success to the similarities between their assigned topic and his MA research.

According to Waddle, the final argument dealt with a speculative type of technology that did machine-learning based off people’s social media posts to create a replication of their social media posting patterns. 

The AI aimed to continue posting as the human users would after the users themselves had died, based on previous data. 

“I’ve done some previous research into topics of identity and online representations of people, so it felt very, very much in my sort of research wheelhouse,” he said. 

“I got to use many of the things that I had been talking about or studying in classes in order to kind of build our case and approach what was for most people probably a very strange and very weird topic.”

As the oldest club on campus at 179 years old, QDU holds weekly meetings to allow students to practice and enhance their public speaking skills through debate. The club attends approximately 15 tournaments each academic year, allowing students to compete at varying levels. 

For QDU President Livi McElrea, ArtSci ’23, seeing Waddle and Abernethy and Chen and Gao succeed was a “very proud moment.” 

She especially considered seeing Chen and Gao win their novice title to be a “huge accomplishment.”

“For me, watching them get to do the semi-finals, and then do the finals and stand their ground to be very smart in the way and very diplomatic,” she said in an interview with The Journal.

“They’re very calculated, and they know exactly what they need to do in order to win. And they’re people who don’t feel the need to take like really flashy arguments and prove themselves within rounds.”

Waddle also said he found Chen and Gao to be “really remarkable debaters” and “super promising.”

QDU is currently looking ahead to tournaments at Yale University, Oxford University, and the World Universities Debating Championship in Madrid in early 2023. 

The club is also hosting the Chancellor’s Cup tournament at Queen’s from Nov. 4 through Nov. 6. Any Queen’s student—regardless of debate experience—can apply to compete in the tournament through QDU’s social media channels


A previous version of this article incorrectly named the Queen’s Debating Union as the “Queen’s Debate Union.” The article has been updated to more accurately reflect the tournament style at the Hart House IV tournament.

The Journal regrets the error


Club, competition, debate, team, tournament

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