No argument: Brandeis’ debate team had yet another superlative season

The Brandeis Academic Debate and Speech Society ranked 8th in the nation this past season

BADASS, the Brandeis Debate team, with awardsAll photos courtesy of the Brandeis Academic Debate and Speech Society

The Brandeis Academic Debate and Speech Society with their awards for ranking among the top 10 debate teams in the nation

I’ve always considered failing to figure out how to argue effectively as one of my many fatal flaws. From failing to convince my mom that dying my hair pink in high school was a good idea, the list seems to go on and on. There is one organization of students, however, that might be able to teach me a trick or two (probably more than two) about the art of persuasion.

There’s no debate that the Brandeis Academic Debate and Speech Society (that's right - they're BADASS) is as formidable a group as they come.

After all, they are ranked 8th in the nation for the 2017-2018 season according to the American Parliamentary Debate Association. Seeing how the society has been voted one of the top ten teams of the year for the past 19 years running, success seems to be nothing new to them.

Like me, you might be wondering what the key to their success may be. Could it be a cutthroat weeding out process that picks only the best of the best? Maybe it’s the years of public speaking experience these students have prior to joining the team?

Although this may be true for other competitive universities' debate clubs, BADASS’s philosophy of inclusion is truly what makes them consistently one of the best teams in the country.

“We pride ourselves in being accessible and have no tryouts. Most of us don’t come in with debate experience so we have a rigorous and robust program that helps train novices,” says former president Ravi Simon ‘19.

Ravi Simon ‘19 of the Brandeis debate team

Ravi Simon '19, former president of BADASS

Ravi, a history, philosophy, and politics major and legal studies and social justice and social policy minor, is living proof that passion, commitment, and drive are essential to success when it comes to competing. He had no experience in speech and debate before coming to Brandeis, yet most recently he broke 18th place at the World Debating Championships in Cape Town, South Africa with his partner Noam Shurin ’19— the best Brandeis performance at a world championship since the society was started in 1997.

“The reason why I stuck with being a part of BADASS is because it’s so empowering when you do well in these challenging environments,” explained Ravi. “I’ve learned so many concepts and skills through debate, probably more than most of my classes.”

Just shy of fifty members, the group encourages students from all backgrounds to join. Whether you just want to improve on your public speaking skills or actively want to travel and participate in competitive tournaments, this team’s mission for inclusivity creates a welcoming environment for all.

“It’s very much a family dynamic here,” says first year member ShiLu Vanasupa ‘22. “We have people to look up to and ask questions of, about school or anything not debate-related.”

Kurtis Lee ’22 and Vanasupa ‘22, members of Brandeis' debate team, seated in chairs

Kurtis Lee ’22 and ShiLu Vanasupa ‘22

While meetings can involve the usual topic lectures or mock debate rounds to build upon their skills, they still manage to integrate a good amount of socializing and team bonding for members. This creates a sense of unity and togetherness that further drives their success as a team.

“You get to meet all of these different people and form connections with them. I would consider myself a part of a community within Brandeis and a wider community with other universities as well,” states member Kurtis Lee ’22.

If you are interested in learning more about BADASS or are eager to join their next meeting, visit their website for more information.


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