Debate team looks forward to spring semester following successful fall


Debate team president Audrianah Shavrnoch performs at a debate demonstration for students at Mumford High School on April 29, 2017.

After a successful season during the Fall 2017 semester, Central Michigan University's debate team hopes to continue that momentum in the spring.

The past season saw strong performances from some of the team’s mainstays and new members who have shown promise, said associate professor Joseph Packer, the team's director.

The team travels to tournaments around the country, participating in debates on topics it receives. The side that team members take in each match is also chosen by the judge of the debate. 

“We’ve had a strong run in the last few years,” Packer said. “We have been to a few national championships and a bunch of tournaments over the years. We’re currently having a strong year.”

The team will head to Webster University at the end of January. The team also plans to go to Ithaca College on Feb. 2 and Hillsdale College on Feb. 23, as well as John Carrol University on March 9 and the Pi Kappa Delta Nationals at Tennessee State University on March 13.

The overall topic for tournaments this year is criminal justice reform, with smaller debate topics falling within that category, Packer said.

Some of topics covered by the team include giving police forces military-grade weapons and the need for police departments to receive additional training regarding gender issues.

During the season, Fraser freshman Ian LoPiccolo went 2-4 during his first tournament at Western Kentucky University, but won the novice bracket in his second tournament at Lafayette College. 

“The team is big this year, from what I understand, and a lot of members are making it to finals at different tournaments,” LoPiccolo said. “We want debaters (on the team) that have some experience and are passionate about it, not people who aren’t ready to make the time and work commitment." 

Packer said team members meet for one hour every week, with students practicing and doing research on their own time.

Team president and Kingsley junior Audrianah Shavrnoch has also found success this season. She has reached the finals and semifinals at two tournaments at Illinois State University in October.  

Shavrnoch competed in seven tournaments and placed in the top four or higher in six of them. In the other tournament, she was in the top eight.

She said the two main types of tournaments the teams do are regional and outround. Regionals require no qualification to be in, but outrounds serve as a “playoff” for debaters, determining if they can go to the national tournament.

The team will finish the season at the National Forensic Association Tournament at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh on April 18.

"We may have an exhibition debate for some Detroit area schools in April, but that hasn't been finalized yet," Packer said.

Packer has been in the position for five years. He also teaches debate at Central Michigan University as part of the communications department. 

As for next year, Shavrnoch said she wants more people to join. Currently, the team consists of eight people — two that have the team as a primary focus and eight other members that fluctuate when it comes to tournaments.

Packer said that the team generally does not accept new members mid-season, though exceptions can be made for students who have previous debate experience, because it eases the transition.

Some of the notable CMU Debate alumni include sportscaster Dick Enberg and former Mount Pleasant Mayor David Ling.

“We have a lot of talented young debaters, so I hope to see them develop,” Packer said. “We also have three debaters who will be seniors who I think all have a shot to have really successful seasons.”