WUDC 2012: “To a life less ordinary” – The World Universities Debating Championships in Manila

Datum: Jan 13th, 2012
Category: Themen, Turniere

Trauma overcome! Worlds’ runner-up Dessislava Kirova gives Achte Minute’e appreciated readers an insight on how she and her team mate Juliane Mendelsohn have overcome their trauma of being defeated in quarters – and how the proceed straight on to the finals of the World Universities Debating Championships (WUDC or Worlds) in Manila, Philippines. (The story is in German, please check back later for an English translation.)

Masako Suzuki steps onto the stage. She smiles and holds the microphone to her lips. The adrenaline starts to flow. Will she say the three magic letters? As the Chair of the ESL-Final pronounces the decision, the whole room breaks into applause and jubilation. The brothers Omer and Sella Nervo from Tel Aviv walk towards the stage, the cameras capturing their joy and broadcasting it across the screens. A magical moment. I turn to Juliane, smile at her and we hug each other – the Worlds are over, and they could not have been any better.

After a traumatic Quarter Final at the European Championship in the summer, we resolved to go to Manila together. Four months and seven days later like only very few German teams before us we have managed to reach the ESL-Final. The Quarter Final almost became a disaster again. But we managed to get through, proceeding to the Semi Finals where we met with Leiden, Galatasaray and Utrecht, who could all easily have been finalists themselves. Only three other German teams had managed to make it before: Assen Kochev and Kai Menzel for Tilbury House (Cologne), Henrik Mädler and Alex Domeyer for the Jacobs University (Bremen) and Adam Hildebrandt and Alyona Asyamova for the Hertie School of Governance (Berlin). And now us for the Berlin Debating Union. Until we heard the announcement, we still had not given up our hopes that we may still have the chance to walk out of the final as the victors. The motion sounded complicated, but was actually a normal debating topic, the competition was not to be underestimated: the authoritative European Champion from Israel, the Winner of Cambridge IV 2011 and SOAS IV from the Netherlands and a team from one of the strongest Debating institutions in Asia – the International Islamic University of Malaysia. Every mistake can take a heavy toll. Our preparation-time went well, we felt good, somewhat excited, but we had almost gotten used to the feeling by now. In the end, it was not enough for us to win, but we could still hardly be any happier, or prouder. The hard work had paid off; the preparation in the past months had born fruit: The never-ending reading, fact sheet writing, the hour-long telephone conversations about topics, and our warm-up training at the Stuttgart IV.

The World Universities Debating Championships 2012 in Manila were a dream from start to finish: A five star Hotel with an azure blue swimming pool, heavenly beds, in which one could lie awake until 2 a.m. in the morning reading fact sheets about Syria, breakfast so good that it could hardly be wished for, (from the Asian crab soup and the freshly prepared omelette to the delicious waffles and pancakes), the most lovely and friendly helpers you could imagine and a great CA-team.

At the adjudication briefing on 28th December the message is clear: quality and consistence are absolute priorities. All adjudicators had to pass a test in which they adjudicated a live debate with some of the world’s best debaters. They had to write out their decision and reasoning as per usual and hand them in. The CA-team then read them all and ranked them accordingly. They explained that there was no right answer, and that two teams could have come first depending upon the reasoning.

Just in case anyone is wondering what World Chief Adjudicators do, here is one answer: they read, and throughout the tournament, they continued to receive much more reading material. Just like at all big international tournaments, the Chief Adjudicators use an extensive feedback system. There are three different feedback forms: the Chair rating the Wings, the Wings rating the Chair (i.e. their ability to lead the discussion and give the feedback) and the teams rating the Chair (above all the reasoning of the decision). The Chairs were encouraged to divide their feedback into two: Firstly, they should establish the appropriate positioning of the teams and explain that (i.e. why a team came ‘only’ second as opposed to first) and then give the teams constructive feedback. It was important to assess the debate in terms of how it actually had went, as opposed to how the judges would have liked it to have been. A great deal of importance was attached to the explanation of the effects: how will this proposition genuinely change and improve the situation, and why this is for the better. There was also room for principles of course, when addressing the question why particular effects are good or bad. The result was an unbelievably consistent judging throughout the competition, no arbitrariness, no bad feedback; teams would still come third in different rooms with different adjudicators for the same reasons.

This meant that it was possible to improve from one round to the next – if one took heed of the jury’s feedback and considered it in the following preparation time. We made some mistakes in the Quarter Final, but by the Semi Finals, we bore almost everything in mind: How exactly can the First Lady be a role model? For which sort of women is she a role model? Which stereotypes can she break up? What will the Opposition say, and how do we deal with that? Take two questions from Closing Opp, try to anticipate what their extension might be and deal with that.

Worth noting, because different, was the CA-Team’s approach to breaking judges and setting motions. Compared to the last two Worlds breaks in Manila ‘only’ about 50 judges broke; in Gaberone and Koc about 100 judges had broken. Therefore, the CAs were criticized at Council. They justified their decision by saying that they only wanted the very best adjudicators in the out-rounds. To quote one of the DCAs ”Excellent wasn’t good enough; we wanted them all to be brilliant.” Good reason, unfortunately some of these top judges had to judge several rounds one after another, which could be exhausting. Concerning motion setting the CA-team wanted to get away from prepared ”case files” debates. Many of the top debaters prepare classic topics and example cases well in advance and then have them well in order to take along to tournaments. The whip speaker from Sydney joked about it in the Open Final ”Well, my partner and I, we abandoned our case files somewhere halfway through the tournament.“

For the German delegation, particularly for Berlin, there was an additional reason for excitement. Not necessarily the fact, that Berlin, as the next host of the WUDC, organized one of the socials, Berlin Night (a great success thanks to the best that German music has to offer: from the Scorpions over Lena up to Nena), but rather the ratification of the Berlin WUDC bid, won a year ago in Gaborone, Botswana.

On January 1st Council met. Those who can celebrate on New Year’s Eve can also be fit to speak again the next day. The President of the Organizing Committee, Patrick Ehmann spoke to Council about the past year’s work and answered all questions. The marked trust and the unanimous ratification give a lot of strength and motivation for the coming year. On the last night, the Worlds-Hammer was handed over to the next convenor, from Manila to Berlin. Patrick invited the world to one of the most exciting cities in the world. Since there still has not been a bid to host worlds after Berlin in 2014 it is not yet clear where the Hammer is going to go after Berlin WUDC 2013. Normally the WUDC is assigned two years in advance, but this year there have simply been no bids. Therefore Council has made new arrangements, making it possible to vote on the next host via e-mail. One or two bids are expected until March. We’re excited about who’s going to be the next host!

The most fantastic thing at Worlds (like at every other tournament, big or small) is the submergence in the World of Debate making everything else from the ‘real’ world fade away. Head scratching about motions, new ideas about motions one has never considered before; the relentless talking, talking, talking – before rounds, during rounds, after rounds; the perpetual exchange of ideas, approaches and experience with the others; the tie of new friendships, the deepening of acquaintances, the reunion with old friends; the frustration about a third place, the joy about a first place; the hope to break, the wish to speak an 80; the realization after eight days that there is still a life outside the debate bubble, the everyday. We always go back to this everyday somewhat reluctantly, embossed from the magic and experience of the world of debate – “to a life less ordinary“. Thank you Manila, see you all in Berlin!

Dessislava Kirova / Pippa Overden

“To a life less ordinary”

Lest hier das Interview mit den Vizeweltmeiserinnen Dessi ud Juliane.

Dessislava Kirova / apf

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2 Kommentare zu “WUDC 2012: “To a life less ordinary” – The World Universities Debating Championships in Manila”

  1. Anja Pfeffermann says:

    In einer früheren Version hieß es, dass Assen Kochev gemeinsam mit Felix Lamouroux im Finale der WUDC gestanden habe. Das war falsch: Assen Kochevs Teampartner war Kai Menzel.

  2. Andi says:

    Toller Artikel Dessi! Und nochmal ganz herzlichen Glückwunsch zu Eurer Vize-Weltmeisterschaft. Oh wie ist das schön 🙂

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