January 23, 2012 - UNLV's Sanford I. Berman Debate Team is ranked among the top 10 varsity programs in the nation for the first time in team history, according to the National Debate Tournament (NDT) Rankings Report released in December.
UNLV is tied with Kansas State for the tenth spot in the rankings, cementing the Rebels' place among the nation's elite debaters in just its fifth year in existence. UNLV is the top ranked team in District I, which includes schools from California, Arizona and Nevada.
"Our goal is to create a top ten team that can compete for the number one spot," said Jacob Thompson, director of UNLV debate and associate professor of communication studies. "This ranking is validation that we are headed in the right direction."
Competitive debate at UNLV consists of two-person teams that argue both for and against a policy related to a topic in what is known as a "switch-side" format. The process is research intensive and the arguments are delivered quickly and fervently.
Debate team members pack in as many points as they can in an effort to stump their competitors. They make their case at 350 to 400 words a minute. Most of us carry on our conversations at about 150 words per minute.
Students spend at least 20 hours a week researching and preparing evidence to defend both affirmative and negative sides of a policy. They also practice speaking with daily reading exercises and drills under Thompson's guidance.
"To put in the amount of work that's required and overcome competitors from Ivy League schools is mind blowing," said Michael Eisenstadt, a UNLV communications major who competes on the team. "The work we've done is worth it and I'm extremely proud of our team."
UNLV recently returned from its first tournament of the spring semester, held at University of California, Berkeley. Three teams represented UNLV at the tournament. Together they compiled 13 wins in the preliminary debates, downing teams from Harvard, the University of Texas, the University of Wyoming, California State University-Fullerton and others.
The NDT Rankings Report is released each spring and fall and includes overall, varsity, community college and regional standings. Northwestern currently holds the top spot in the national varsity rankings. UNLV sits at 17th in the overall rankings, which includes points from the junior varsity and novice divisions.
Related Link: UNLV Sanford I. Berman Debate Forum