Be it resolved that....
Queen’s Debating Union members have been making their arguments for 154 years now, and they’re still at it. They wouldn’t have it any other way.
Ryan Tolusso, Artsci’12; Kaya Ellis, Artsci’13; Amelia McLeod, Artsci’14; and Diana Holloway, Artsci’13, are four Queen’s students you don’t want to get into an argument with.
They’re all members of Queen’s Debating Union (QDU), the oldest student organization on campus. Founded in 1843, it is 15 years older than the Alma Mater Society, which began in 1858 as an offshoot of the Union – then called the Dialectic Society.
“We ended up merging with the Levana Debating Society, which was our female equivalent on campus, in the late 1800s and we became Queen’s Debating Union,” says McLeod, QDU’s Secretary.
Union president Tolusso says as many as 25 students regularly attend meetings and participate in competitions. “We develop a core group of members in their first year, and they tend to stay involved for four years,” he says. “We try to keep in touch with everyone who comes to the club and maintain them as part of our social network.”
That social network includes a number of alumni who continue to support the QDU.
“We have a fairly large alumni network in Toronto,” says QDU Critic Ellis. “We’ve kept in touch with quite a few of our members who’ve graduated in recent years. We communicate with them through newsletters and stuff like that, but we also have a lot of alumni return to continue giving back to the club.”
Alumni support QDU by attending tournaments, Ellis notes. Some can serve as judges at competitive events.
QDU competitor Holloway says the Union is socially oriented and is a great place to make new friends and to network. Debating is also a wonderful learning opportunity, providing experience that can’t be found inside the classroom.
“We're maintaining the proud Queen's tradition of competitively successful debate and of being great leaders and representatives of the Queen's community.”
“I’m a politics major, and with no disrespect to my courses, I think I’ve learned more from debating than all my other courses combined,” she says.
“Obviously there are public speaking skills and being able to think from different perspectives. The latter is useful in essays when they ask you to critique an author and you learn to pretend to disagree even if you don’t really.”
Biology major Ellis says it’s not just Political Science students who benefit from the skills they gain as debaters.
“I remember in my first year I was one of two science students, and the only science student on QDU executive. Since then, I think we’ve tried our best to create relations with all kind of departments on campus,” she says. “We’ve expanded from being just the Political Science majors and economics majors, which is great.”
For many members, the highlights of QDU involvement are the many tournaments the students participate, most of which take place in Canada. This past fall, QDU members participated in the CUSID Novice Debate Tournament (hosted by McGill), Hart House IV Invitational (hosted by the U of Toronto, Hart House), the Father Roger Guindon Cup Invitational (hosted by the U of Ottawa), and the British Parliamentary Championships (hosted by Wilfrid Laurier). The QDU team has had much success at recent tournaments, with its members reaching the semi-finals and recording a win at the North American Women’s Debating Championship.
Queen’s also hosts its own debating tournament, which members say has a strong reputation in the Canadian debating community.
Competitors have opportunities for further travel with tournaments such as the annual World Universities Debating Championship. QDU sends as many as 10 students each year; McLeod and Holloway attended the most recent Championship, which took place in Manila, Philippines, in December. However, for Tolusso it is not only the travel opportunities that make QDU involvement worthwhile. To him, just participating in the historical group is an honour.
“We’re maintaining the proud Queen’s tradition of competitively successful debate and of being great leaders and representatives of the Queen’s community,” he says. “We’re incredibly proud to be part of the oldest group on campus.”
Alumni can visit www.queensdebatingunion.org to keep track of the QDU’s successes and to learn more about getting involved, and keeping in touch.