Flat, sassy and successful: York debating team flies high in Saskatoon

Flat and Sassy Nationals ’09 was the intriguing name of the 2009 Canadian University Society for Intercollegiate Debate (CUSID) Championships held March 28 and 29 at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon. Hosted by the University of Saskatchewan Debate Society, the championships brought more than 50 teams from across Canada to the chilly prairie campus. York University was well represented at the national championships by the York Debating Society, which sent nine team members to the competition.

The York team faced off against some of the top debating teams in Canada and climbed to the top of the group rankings with stellar performances by Osgoode Hall Law School students Rudi Lof and Brent Kettles. Both of the intrepid debaters managed to qualify for the quarter-finals. The pair did very well and in spite of a close loss to the University of Toronto, both Lof and Kettles achieved a second place ranking overall in the six round tournament. Kettles also ranked in the top 10, placing as the fifth speaker for the entire tournament, a stellar placement in a competition that pitted him against some of the best debaters in Canada. The competition topics ranged from Chinese negotiations with Tibet to the economic need for sustainable buildings and even a round on Star Trek cybernetic assimilation.

Left: Brent Kettles (left) and Rudi Lof

While in Saskatoon, Kettles also managed to place third overall in the Public Speaking CUSID National Championship, a concurrent event that challenges participants to present engaging and entertaining impromptu speeches. 

"Needless to say, York’s success brought us plenty to laugh about as airport security had to examine each of the numerous trophies the team was bringing home to York University," said Emmett Soldati, president of the York Debating Society.

Aside from the opportunity to compete, Flat and Sassy Nationals ’09 brought debaters from Vancouver to Halifax together to discuss the future of debate in Canada. The CUSID is the organization that governs the promotion and competition of debate in Canada. It met several times during the weekend to discuss elections and tournaments for the upcoming year. 

Right: Nine members of the York Debating Society travelled to Saskatoon to compete in the Flat and Sassy ’09 debate tournament

"One can imagine the atmosphere – 20 to 30 university debaters crammed in a room together trying to reach an agreement," said Soldati. 

Lof, the 2008-2009 treasurer of CUSID, passed the torch on to Kettles for 2009-2010, who was voted into the position by the group. Kettles, with the help of Lof, hopes to redesign the funding structure of CUSID – making payments easier and using the debates to raise money for charity. One of his specific goals is to launch a funding campaign to send an underprivileged high-school student to debate camp.

The CUSID community unanimously approved York and Osgoode to host the 2010 North American Championships. With Lof as the appointed tournament director, York and Osgoode will host one of the largest international tournaments in the debating circuit. "With Lof’s exceptional tournament running skills and the burgeoning membership of enthusiastic debaters in the society, this is an opportunity to put York on the map as a bastion of civil discourse and intellectual discussion," said Soldati.

For more information about the York Debating Society, meetings times and tournament dates, visit the York Debating Society Web site or e-mail yorkdebatingsociety@gmail.com.