Queen’s students take home debating trophy

Saposnik, Opolsky attribute victory to winning over audience

Danny Saposnik, ArtSci ’07, and Jeremy Opolsky, ArtSci ’08, won the Central Canadian Debating Championships, held from Feb. 9 to Feb. 11.
Danny Saposnik, ArtSci ’07, and Jeremy Opolsky, ArtSci ’08, won the Central Canadian Debating Championships, held from Feb. 9 to Feb. 11.

For the second consecutive year, Queen’s won the Central Canadian Debating Championships.
Queen’s Debating Union members Danny Saposnik, ArtSci ’07 and Jeremy Opolsky, ArtSci ’08, came away with the competition’s grand prize trophy.

In the final round, Saposnik and Opolsky debated a team from the University of Toronto on a resolution that proposed that military service should be mandatory in order to gain citizen’s benefits; Saposnik and Opolsky debated against the resolution.

Saposnik attributed the team’s success to their ability to win over the spectators.

“I think we were funnier and we said better things more persuasively,” he said, adding that it was crucial to captivate the audience and gain their support early in a debate because later they will be more sympathetic to the team’s arguments.

“A lot of it is just bringing the audience on your side, so you’ve got to be funny and witty,” he said. “It makes the other side more tense, and they feel pressured, like they have to get the audience’s attention.” Held at the University of Guelph, the debate tournament spanned three days from Feb. 9 to 11. The tournament format is modeled after the Canadian Parliamentary System: each debate consisted of two competing teams of two people, one team representing the government while the other team represents the opposition. The teams debate with the government arguing for and the opposition arguing against a resolution they’re given. A panel of judges scores each team on the structure of their speeches as well as their ability to engage the audience watching them.

Every team participated in the first two tournament days, but by the third day, the best 18 teams were chosen and the other 32 eliminated. Saposnik said the elimination and judging can be a frustrating process. “It’s really subjective ... but your judges are other experienced university debaters who can tell what is more persuasive and what isn’t.”

Saposnik said the pace of the debate is also something that the teams grapple with.

“It can be really fast-paced and you need to be on your toes and engaged with the two speakers
you’re debating against,” he said. The resolutions spanned a broad range of topics, Saposnik said, making it difficult to study or prepare for the competition.

He said it’s important to be well-read on current affairs, however.

“The Economist is like the Bible,” he said. “If it is worthy of being in the Economist than you should know it.” One of the most challenging points of the tournament for Saposnik and Opolsky came when
they were forced to oppose a government resolution with which they were completely unfamiliar.

“We had to argue about some quirk in the American legal system that the government wanted to abolish,” he said. “I was the first speaker on opposition and I had no idea what it was all about.”

Queen’s will host the Canadian Parliamentary Debate National Champtionships March 23 to 25. Saposnik and Opolsky won’t be debating, but Opolsky is the tournament’s director.

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