In the final round of the 2018 National Parliamentary Debate Invitational [NPDI], Campolindo’s Shannon Bonet & Sharon Yuan defeated Nueva’s Ben Shahar & Eugenia Xu on a 6-1 decision, negating the resolution, “The United States federal government should ban the sale and production of meat in the United States.”
On the affirmative, Nueva argued that the factory farming conditions in the United States are problematic under a framework focused on anthropocentrism. Campolindo read a topicality argument that the plan must also ban lab grown meat, and two disadvantages on business confidence and illicit markets. Though the round ultimately involved two theory shells, every judge voted on case layer arguments, with six judges voting on the business confidence disadvantage and the remaining judge, Tom Kadie from Parliamentary Debate at Berkeley, voting on a hegemony argument made as a turn.
“It felt surreal; in past years, we definitely never made it this far at all, and ever since Campo made it to finals my freshman year, it’s been a goal for us personally [to win NPDI],” said Yuan, who closed out the JV division her freshman year.
“While you’re there it’s just a debate round,” Ben Shahar said, “We’ve never had a panel this good and I’ve only debated Shannon and Sharon once. . . so certainly there’s something different about that.”
Campolindo also took finals in the junior varsity division, with Cathy Kenderski & Lela Tolajian defeating Menlo-Atherton’s Peter Koenig & Ally Mediratta on a 3-0 decision.
“I think it was a really good debate, there was a lot of clash. Impact framing was really important in that debate which I liked because I like doing a lot of impact weighing,” Kenderski said.
“[Koenig & Mediratta] were a really strong team so it was really fun to go against them. It was definitely one of my favorite debates I had at this tournament,” said Tolajian.
NPDI, hosted by Parliamentary Debate at Berkeley, has been running for seven years. Unlike most other parliamentary debate tournaments, NPDI requires that all varsity judges have experience in high school or college debate.
Because of its high-caliber judging, the tournament attracts many competitors from outside of the Bay Area, including teams from Oregon and Southern California.
Journeys to this year’s tournament, and the tournament itself, were made more difficult by the fires raging across Butte County and Los Angeles: a thick blanket of white smoke hovered over Berkeley during the weekend, moving its usually moderate to healthy air quality towards unhealthy.
“We could actually see the clouds and the flames,” said University Independent’s Mira Ogawa, who witnessed the smoke’s effects across the California coast in the trek from Los Angeles.
Finalist Ben Shahar, felt the fires impact severely. “I have chronic bronchitis and very bad asthma, which meant it was very difficult for me to be outside because my bronchitis could relapse,” they said.
With a pool of 106 entries in varsity, 55 entries in junior varsity, and a total of 121 judges entered, NPDI’s lack of major delays won the praise of debaters and judges alike. National Parliamentary Debate League [NPDL] TOC Director and El Cerrito High School Coach Joel Jacobs agreed that NPDI was organized and timely and praised Parli at UC Berkeley’s coach, Trevor Greenan, for his flexibility.
“It’s a very well run tournament,” said Shahar, noting that the tournament’s method of posting resolutions on a Google Doc ensured that “everyone [had] access to the exact same wording and language of the topic” at once.
NPDI is currently the only tournament in high school parliamentary debate that uses mutual preference judging (MPJ), a system that allocates judges to their rounds based on the preferences of each team: judges for each round, ideally, were ranked the same by both teams on the 1-4 scale.
Shahar believes MPJ is a good system, as it ensures that flow and lay teams will not win or lose solely based on judge biases, while also allowing critical teams to read their performative arguments in front of judges who enjoy listening.
Not all debaters and coaches, however, trust the MPJ mechanism to maximize educational rounds. Jacobs, though not strictly against it, expressed a “certain skepticism” for the system as it prevents debaters from learning to be adaptable.
Like last year, NPDI hosted the fall meeting for the NPDL, in which legislative proposals are discussed and passed. This year’s meeting involved discussions about tournament best practices that could lessen the effect of discrimination on debate results, logistical changes for the NPDL TOC, and regional inclusion.
“There were a lot of items on the agenda and some of us were wondering if we would be able to get through everything,” said Joel Jacobs.
However, he noted, everyone present was able to keep their comments focused and concise. “People were remarkably unattached to their own proposals when it seemed like there were good reasons to do something else, and that was really refreshing,” said Jacobs.
Aaronson, the student representative for Ashland, noted that there weren’t many major shifts in policy and most of the proposals that passed were preventative measure for “what if” scenarios.
Despite the efficiency of the meeting that Jacobs described, debaters who made it to octofinals had to leave the meeting early as pairings were pushed before it ended.
“There’s so much to do at this point that there are some things like [tournament] best practices that we can’t hash out in the confines of a meeting,” Jacobs said, noting that it would be preferable for legislative agreements to occur without a time constraint.
The equity forum is another event that has been part of the NPDI schedule for 3 years. Started by Nadia Cochinwala, former Evergreen debater and current Cal student, the equity forum is a space dedicated to the discussion of equity concerns within parli—and the consideration of community solutions.
As someone who had to fight for his ability to debate in college, first time panelist and former Los Angeles Valley College debater Khamani Griffin commended NPDI’s equity forum as a tournament practice.
“Being able to put a bunch of people on the panel to say ‘hey, throw everything that you can at us about levels of change and levels of community affect you’d like to see and we’ll do what we can to create that level of change’ was not only new to me but it was pretty groundbreaking,” Griffin said.
Although usually conducted by a panel of current and former debaters, this year’s meeting was significantly more focused on hearing input from competitors at the tournament.
Aaronson believed this year’s forum was able to produce material change, noting the revival of the High School Parliamentary Debate Facebook group that fostered a wave of file sharing from graduated and active debaters alike.
The discussion of creating a more equitable debate space extended beyond the equity forum; Menlo-Atherton’s Andrew Gordan & Chris Ikonomou used their rounds at NPDI as a space to “dismantle harmful debate norms” with their criticism. Their alternative text is provided to the right.
“Our original idea—sarcastically—was ‘why debate collapse would be good,’ and it evolved into reasons why particular groups didn’t want to be involved in the debate space like some trans people and people of color we’ve had experiences with,” Ikonomou said, “The most important thing about the argument is that it’s trying to do little things to solve a bigger problem. We would like to get to a point where arguments like this stop becoming necessary.”
Gordan & Ikonomou went on to read this argument every round of this tournament, passing out notecards to their judges and opponents with a list of changes in parli norms that they believe are needed.
As a whole, NPDI was overwhelmingly regarded as a community-centered tournament where passion for debate was felt by many.
Aaronson noted that the best part of NPDI was watching late outrounds where she could see high level debate and support her friends. For freshmen Kenderski & Tolajian, NPDI allowed them to learn about new topic areas and improve as a team.
Yuan said, “[NPDI] reminded [Shannon and I] of how much we loved the activity and why we keep spending all our time doing just debate. It felt like a family type situation.”
“Every year, I'm reminded of how all the competitors we get at NPDI are always so intelligent, thoughtful and just really darn good at debate,” said Parli at UC Berkeley debater and NPDI judge Jessica Jung, “and this year was absolutely not any different.”
Nueva Andrew Chu & Rajeev Sharma def. Menlo-Atherton Quinn Hammel & Logan Wilson (2-1)
Campolindo Shannon Bonet & Sharon Yuan def. Notre Dame Sahithi Madireddy & Christie Maly (3-0)
Nueva Ben Shahar & Eugenia Xu def. Los Altos/Campolindo Ryan Lee & Sophie Stankus (3-0)
Los Altos Tamur Asar & Luke DiMartino def. Menlo-Atherton/Nueva Maya Bodnick & Sathvik Nori (3-0)
Dougherty Valley Haris Khan & Joyce Wu def. Pioneer Albert Hao & Jessica Zhu (2-1)
Irvington Reetam Ganguli & Isha Sanghvi def. Dougherty Valley Anurag Rao & Brandon Zhang (3-0)
Friendship Esha Dadbhawala & Nidhir Guggilla def. Bishop O’Dowd Meade Jacobsen & Milo Kuiper Rauch (3-0)
Irvington Aaron Lin & Rishabh Chowhan def. Club Parli Alina Chen & Amanda Hao (2-1)
Los Altos Asar & DiMartino def. Nueva Chu & Sharma (2-1)
Campolindo Bonet & Yuan def. Dougherty Valley Khan & Wu (3-0)
Nueva Shahar & Xu def. Irvington Ganguli & Sanghvi (3-0)
Friendship Dadbhawala & Guggilla def. Irvington Lin & Chowhan (2-1)
Nueva SX def. Los Altos AD (2-1)
Campolindo BY def. Friendship DG (2-1)
Campolindo BY def. Nueva SX (6-1)