Fordham’s parliamentary debate team has racked up an impressive list of successes to date during the 2006-2007 season. The tandem of Fordham College at Rose Hill senior John Hollwitz and Fordham College at Rose Hill junior Steve Mongiello rank in fourth place behind two-person teams from Yale, MIT and Harvard in the American Parliamentary Debate Association’s (APDA) current rankings. In addition, Fordham College Rose Hill student Matthew Spotts is ranked 13th overall in the Speaker of the Year category. The Rose Hill team also holds the 33rd place position worldwide, out of some 500 to 600 international parliamentary debate teams, and is the second-ranked Jesuit college team, after Ateneo de Manila University in Malaysia, said Faye Cassell, a Fordham College at Rose Hill junior and president of the Fordham Debate Society.
“We expect our rankings to rise for this year , because we did exceptionally well at last week’s 2007 Worlds Championship,” Cassell said. She and her partner, Spotts, were just one point shy of breaking into the World Championship out-rounds (the equivalent of semi-finals) which, she said, is an accomplishment for an American school.
Parliamentary debate consists of extemporaneous-style speaking by two-person teams, on several different subjects in one season. The Fordham team has 25 to 30 student members, and is active from September through April of each academic year. The team attends approximately 40 debates per year, an average of one per week.
Other teams in the APDA’s top ten this year include Johns Hopkins University, The College of William and Mary, Princeton University, and the University of Virginia. Hollwitz, an American Studies major, is also the president of the APDA for the 2006-2007 year.
Parliamentary debate focuses on rhetorical skill and general broad logic, and on topics such as history, philosophy and current affairs. The Fordham team practices speaking and researches topics without the aid of a faculty coach. Jonathan Crystal, Ph.D., associate professor of political science, who acts as faculty advisor in various matters, said his role is minor.
“The student members themselves are so committed and responsible,” he said. “They work incredibly hard and I have nothing but admiration for them. The team is highly competitive against many of the most prestigious universities in the country. If you look at the other universities that send teams to the tournaments—Harvard, Yale, Stanford, MIT, Brown, Hopkins—it’s pretty impressive company, and Fordham definitely holds its own.”
– Janet Sassi