York debaters fare well at Winter Carnival

York debaters had the sweet smell of success about them as they played host to the best debaters in North America over the weekend.

Right: Public speaking champion Maia Miller (left) and team partner York grad Husein Panju

At the Winter Carnival debating tournament at Montreal’s McGill University the previous weekend – and in full organizational mode for the North Amercian Debating Championships, or “norams” as they are known – the York Debating Society (YDS) enjoyed one of its best performances to date, placing teams in the quarter-finals and finals, and seeing three of their members named among the top speakers. Two team members made it to the finals of the parallel public speaking competition and one ended as champion.

Winter Carnival is one of the most highly anticipated tournaments of the year, attracting teams from all across Canada and bringing some of the most experienced debaters out of retirement for a weekend of debate.

Making it to the quarter-finals with his Dalhousie partner was Osgoode student Rudi Lof, who was named top speaker at a tournament earlier in the fall. Brent Kettles, another Osgoode student, along with partner Sarah Sahagian, a PhD student in women’s studies, made it to the finals, placing second to a team from Harvard University and the University of Toronto.

Three YDS debaters finished among the top 15 speakers of the tournament, with Kettles placing second, Lof seventh and Sahagian 13th out of 136.

Kassie Dwarika and Maia Miller made it to the finals for the public speaking competition, a concurrent event that challenges participants to present engaging and entertaining impromptu speeches.

Left: Kettles and Sahagian

Miller, vice-president external of the YDS, partnered with Husein Panju (BA ’09), a YDS and Faculty of Health alumnus, and took the top public speaking award. They used humorous diagrams with captions to illustrate the quirks of the debating world – a speech that will surely be remembered by debaters for years to come.

The YDS sent seven teams in total, making this one of the largest contingents to represent York University at a debating tournament.

The calibre of the YDS has been growing exponentially within the last year, where our debaters are now continuously ranking among the top teams and speakers at tournaments. Just over the winter break, Lof and Kettles attended the World Universities Debating Championships in Turkey, where they both did exceptionally well.

The YDS meets twice a week and is open to all York students. The YDS and Osgoode Debate Society also co-hosted the North American Debating Championships over the weekend at the Keele campus. This tournament is one of the most prestigious debating events in the world, and attracts schools from all across Canada and the United States. The final competition was held Sunday.

For more information, visit the York Debating Society Web site at or e-mail them.