On October 18, Oakland Tech’s Debate Club participated in their first tournament of the 2020-21 school year, The Ne’Jahra Soriano BAUDL Season Opener. Despite the new circumstances from the ongoing pandemic, they managed to adapt and make the best out of the resources available.
Oakland Tech’s Debate Club is affiliated with the Bay Area Urban Debate League (BAUDL), an organization that works with Bay Area public school districts to bring competitive policy debate to their students. This includes schools such as Castlemont High School, Skyline High School, Oakland High School, and many more. With BAUDL, our Debate Team is able to compete with peers from all over the Bay Area.
The Debate Club consists of three divisions: Novice, Junior Varsity (JV), and Varsity. In the last few months, the Novices were taught the structures of policy debate and were introduced to the annual topic as the JV and Varsity teams further developed their skills.
Each year, the Debate Club focuses on a topic that is decided by the National Speech and Debate Association (NDSA). This year, they are tackling Criminal Justice Reform. With this prompt in mind, the Novice students dove deep into the issue of using police body cameras, while the JV and Varsity teams focused on the issue of abolishing ICE. Club members collected arguments and analyzed their evidence during practice with their peers.
Along with the weekly meetings on Monday, club members also attended practices outside with BAUDL and other schools on Wednesdays. Many Novices took advantage of this opportunity and demonstrated strong commitment regardless of the virtual nature of events this year. As one of the club’s varsity trainers, Nuriel Cahigas, recalls, “Many of our [JV and Varsity team members] had reached out to me in the weeks before the tournament to get further guidance into how they should prepare for the debate.”
On the day of the tournament, there were four rounds of debates over the given topics that lasted around one to two hours. Although other schools such as Emery, KIPP King, KIPP SF, and Oakland Military Institute had Novice team members as well, a majority of this cohort hailed from Oakland Tech. Students were online from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Having a debate tournament held virtually inevitably produced a few challenges, whether it was with the lengthy screen time, the long speeches, or the technical difficulties. Even experienced debaters found the drastic changes to be off-putting.
Nonetheless, club members strived to get the most out of their experience. Many were able to reunite with people they had befriended over the years during tournaments. Cahigas recounts, “One of my judges for my debate was the first person I debated when I first joined [Varsity]!” Conversations after each debate were also a highlight, where they all exchanged rounds of compliments and discords. Even more, many of the Debate Club members won a high placement, especially from the Novice team. As Cahigas describes, debating is a “very in-person type of activity. Regardless of that, we all made it work! Spirits were really high during the tournament and…it was pretty enjoyable regardless! Congrats to everyone who [was] able to debate during this opening tournament and [a] special shoutout to all of our Novices who placed high this tournament!”
Debate Club holds meetings every Monday from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Zoom. Find more information on their Instagram: @ot_debate. All interested individuals are welcome to join the Debate Club at any time during the school year, regardless of skill level.