Grove City College Debate Team captains Tegan Truitt ’21 and Christopher Ostertag ’20 traveled to Florida to participate in an exclusive collegiate debate exhibition last month.
The invitation to The Great Debate at Rollins College, Winter Park, Fla., was the first extended to a team from the United States for competition. Truitt and Ostertag faced off Sept. 26 against teams from Rollins and the Jamaican Association for Debate and Empowerment over the question of whether or not countries with a history of slavery should pay reparations.
Rollins’ Great Debate draws participants from around the world to demonstrate their skills in rhetoric and logic. The exhibition before a live audience was chaired by famed civil-rights activist Cheryl Brown Henderson of Brown v. Board of Education. While in the Sunshine State, Grove City’s debaters conducted an exhibition debate and training seminar at Apopka High School.
The competition follows the British Parliamentary Style, which differs from the International Parliamentary and National Parliamentary formats that Grove City College debaters usually follow. Truitt and Ostertag had to adapt, but that’s par for the course, according to Dr. Jason Edwards, Debate Team coach and professor of History, who said the team is competing in five different debate formats this season.
“Grove City College’s formula for debate is to ‘know more and speak better’ and that translates very well to all forms of debate and to the real world. As such, while it is a challenge to adjust to different rules, the core skills we seek to develop here allow us to perform well regardless of format,” Edwards said.
The experience was valuable for the students, he noted. “As a History professor I was just delighted that our students would get to meet Cheryl Brown Henderson. It is not every day that one gets to meet the plaintiff of one of the most noted Supreme Court decisions in history,” Edwards said.
The audience was larger – and rowdier – than at most debates. In addition, Edwards said, it was “not sympathetic to arguments popular on Grove City’s campus. As such, the students gained a valuable ‘real world’ experience in trying to reason with people unlike themselves.”
The fall debate season is in full swing. The College’s team traveled to Morristown, Tenn., on Oct. 5 to compete in the Smoky Mountain Invitational tournament hosted by Walters State Community College.
Grove City engaged schools from across the South, including teams from Transylvania University, Middle Tennessee State University, Berea College and Bryan College. The topics of argument covered a variety of issues, including: Hong Kong, bail laws, infrastructure and artificial intelligence. Captain Tegan Truitt and his brother Riley Truitt ’23 won the varsity division, while Sebastian Anastasi ’23 and Caleb Van Grouw ’23 took first place in the novice division. Grove City College was also heavily represented among the top speakers at the tournament, with Tegan Truitt taking the championship.
The Team kicked off the 2019 season early in September at the University of Indianapolis’ annual Forensics 500 Audrey Cunningham Speech and Debate Tournament. “GCC comported themselves well, debating topics such as climate change, the filibuster, automation, healthcare and interestingly had teams win on both sides of the resolution: ‘there is more wrong than right in higher education’,” Edwards said.
Andrew Furjanic ’20 was named the tournament’s top speaker. The varsity squad, comprised of four veteran teams and one novice, posted a dominant record all weekend. Ostertag and Furjanic tied for first-place by closing out the final round with GCC’s Maverick Dickson ’20 and Alisa Randall ’20. Rebecca Powell ’20 and Sydney Travis ’21 claimed the third-place finish.
Jacob Adams ’23 and Caleb Van Grouw ’23 went undefeated in the preliminary rounds and finished second overall in the novice division. They also won the second and third place speaker awards for their division.