No argument: Drury’s debate program among the best in the nation

Drury University’s debate team is making national waves in its inaugural season.

Bringing back a tradition at Drury that dates back to the late 1800s, the debate program was re-established in 2016 after a hiatus as part of the university’s ongoing multi-faceted strategy to attract and retain great students.

The International Public Debate Association (IPDA) ranks individual debaters and university debate programs on a weekly basis.  As a program, Drury is currently ranked 1st in the nation for having more varsity team points than any of the other participating schools. Additionally, Drury has had “top five” finishers in both individual and team competition at most of its tournaments.

Though they are not all freshmen, all of Drury’s debaters are in their first year of college debate competition. The squad may be new, but it quickly formed a culture of high achievement, teamwork and trust in one another, says debate coach Dr. Charles Deberry.

DU Debate Union

“Chemistry is everything,” Deberry says. “We have a lot of diversity in terms of the students’ backgrounds and areas of study on the team. I think that’s been a key element in our success because the topics cover a wide spectrum, from international economics to whether the Patriots are the best team in the NFL, and you don’t know what the topic will be before going into the debate.”

Drury’s team participates in a relatively new debate league that stresses civil discourse rather than highly technical strategies and oral speed-reading seen in some collegiate leagues. Formed in 1997, the IDPA emphasizes critical thinking, civil discourse, logic, creativity, and real-world persuasion skills. The league is growing with more than 120 colleges in 28 states in the southeast, Midwest and west coast.

The IPDA’s format gives student debaters a list of five topics to choose from before the debate begins. The two individuals or teams take turns striking topics until one is left. A coin flip determines who takes a “pro” or “con” position. Each side has 20 minutes to prepare for the debates, which last about 30 minutes for individuals and an hour for teams.

“It’s really a great capstone for a liberal arts education,” Deberry says. “To be successful in this format you have a broad knowledge of a variety of topics and then be able to think critically and express yourself clearly.”

“The Debate Union provides a community for intelligent students to not only debate, but have an environment where they thrive, socially and intellectually,” says Austin Cassity, a senior from Springfield.

Lindsay Duede, a freshman from Ozark, says the opportunity to debate is what led her to make the decision to attend Drury over other schools on her list of choices.

“Debate was my everything in high school and it still is,” she says. “I applied to a lot of schools and was accepted at a lot of places. Not all of them had debate or the type of debate that interested me. When I met with Dr. Deberry and he told me what DU was up to, I immediately wanted to be a part of that action. Debate is why I am proud to be a Panther.”

Not all of the debaters are freshmen. Mallory Pinson is a sophomore from Liberty, Missouri, who says debate has helped her find niche at Drury.

“I came here before Drury had the debate program in full operation, therefore it was not a big motivator for my coming to Drury, but it is definitely what will keep me here,” she says. “I knew that I wanted to continue the activity. I am so happy to be able to be able to participate the Drury Debate Union.”

The 2016-17 Drury debate team members include Mallory Pinson, Ameran Link, Kris Rose, Lindsay Duede, Austin Cassity, Jerrica Shine, Emily Collier, Kat Sittenauer, Erin Benedict, Ayesha Naqi and Haley Davis.

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