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This House is on Fire – Manipal Freshers’ Debate Tournament ’18

With voices raised in passionate argument, the rhythmic banging of tables, quizzical raises of the eyebrow – the four days of the Manipal Freshers’ Debate Tournament saw the classrooms of AB 5 abuzz with animated discussion. The tournament was held from 11th to 14th January and consisted of three preliminaries, a semi-final, and a final round. In an upgrade from the erstwhile Inter-Section Debate Tournament, this year, the debate was open to all freshmen from MAHE. 36 teams participated, including 4 teams and 6 adjudicators from colleges apart from MIT.

Image courtesy: The Photography Club, Manipal

The debate followed the British Parliamentary style. This means it had two factions– the Government and the Opposition– who argued for and against the motion, respectively. Each faction consisted of two teams (of two debaters each) who ‘opened’ and ‘closed’ the debate. The adjudicators provided a judgment at the end of the debate and in turn, they were scored by the chair, based on their justification for their judgement.

The motion for the first preliminary was – ‘This government shall make open relationships the norm.’ Since most participants were debating in the British Parliamentary style for the first time, it took them a little while to acclimatise to the format. By the second preliminary, they had gotten over their inhibitions, and the debate gained momentum.

The motion for this round was – ‘This house will not consume art by people who have committed deeply immoral acts.’ Participants brought in various real-world examples to support their arguments such as those of Salman Khan, Kevin Spacey, and the more recently lambasted Logan Paul. The relevance of this motion seemed to resonate with the students as the debate drew an enthusiastic response from the participants. According to quite a few, however, the debate was only a part of the greater experience. “The best part was the discussions after the debate. The seniors helped us understand where we went wrong and explained to us one-to-one how we could improve”, noted Noel Pereira and Joshua Solomon, first-year students who participated in the debate.

Image courtesy: The Photography Club, Manipal

The motions kept getting more inventive by the day, as the motion for the third preliminary sounded like something straight out of a Black Mirror episode– ‘This house will allow individuals to selectively erase their own memories.’ Following this round, eight teams and ten adjudicators broke into the semi-finals. The teams battled valiantly to make their way through, and the debate culminated with four teams securing their place in the grand final. The final motion truly challenged the debaters’ ability to form convincing arguments. The team from Section Z of MIT, consisting of Arav Saraff and Sahil J. Shah emerged the winners. The prize for Best Speaker went to Janmejay Amoli from Section C, and the Best Adjudicator was Kunal Kumar Rai from Section B.

The tournament in its entirety was well received. “The organisation did a great job with this tournament. You need a lot of patience to organise three preliminaries and two final rounds! We had a lot of fun!” remarked Radhini Chowdhary and Akshat Rastogi, participants from KMC. The debate aimed at introducing first-years to debate culture. The General Secretary of LDQ, Rajdeep Dasgupta, pointed out, “This debate is very different from what most participants have experienced in school – where the focus is on flashy speeches. We want them to focus on the ‘what’ rather than the ‘how’. We want to teach them how to build persuasive arguments. The tournament also provides an excellent opportunity for students to get over their fear of public speaking.”

The Manipal Fresher’s Debate Tournament was a suitable primer for college-level debating for all the first years. Participants left smiling, having gained an experience unlike any other. Here’s hoping these debaters continue to keep Manipal buzzing with their oratorical skills and emphatic words.