Stuyvesant Host NYCFL Grand Debate Tournament

Stuyvesant hosts in-person Grand Debate Tournament after years of virtual competitions.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Cover Image
By Kikyo Makino-siller

Stuyvesant hosted the New York Catholic Forensics League (NYCFL) Grand Debate Tournament on March 18. After hosting virtual competitions for three years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Stuyvesant returned to in-person competitions this year. In addition to hosting the tournament, Stuyvesant won an award for sending the most qualifiers to the National Catholic Forensics League Debate Tournament, which will be held in Kentucky in May 2023.

With the collaboration of senior and Speech and Debate President Erica Lung, junior and Congressional Debate Junior Varsity Director William Tang, English teacher and Speech and Debate faculty advisor Julie Sheinman, and many other student leaders, the networking coordination for the tournament began in December. “We started sending out e-mails to parents to gauge aggregate interest on who might bring food [and] who might judge,” Lung said.

According to Lung, one of the most important aspects of planning the tournament was the preparation of food for the tournament, which involved coordination with parents on the type and quantity of food that would be brought. “It was the largest correspondence between us and parents [...] because we had to talk to [the parents] about how much of each quantity of food, allergens, instructions for drop off, and just a lot of logistical things,” Lung said. “So that was one aspect of tournament planning that stretched on for a couple of months.”

Another aspect of planning that required significant coordination was recruiting volunteers who were responsible for helping to serve food, keep track of time, and cheer on their teammates. Lung coordinated with Speech and Debate team captains to gather volunteers. “Specifically for this tournament, I told [the captains] that I needed at least eight volunteers from every event,” Lung said.

Contrary to Lung’s expectations, several teams sent more than eight volunteers, as students were very enthusiastic about helping out throughout the event. “Most of Speech and Debate were there as volunteers to help because Stuyvesant was hosting this tournament,” junior and Oral Interpretation competitor Erica Liu said.

Students felt rather hindered by their lack of experience, as this was the first year that Stuyvesant returned to in-person tournaments. “I think the biggest difficulty in organizing this event was that we haven’t hosted the tournament for three years,” Tang said. “Every person on the team had no experience with this. So it was definitely very humbling and a valuable learning experience to work with the team to help organize and plan this event.”

Despite the relatively smooth management of the tournament, one persistent issue that was brought up by many students was the disturbance coming from the Public Address (PA) system, which was undergoing continued technical maintenance. Many debaters found it difficult to concentrate due to the constant testing of the speakers. “I was in plenty of rounds where people [had] to stop giving speeches because [of the] bell. So we would pause the timer, pause the speech, and then keep going,” sophomore and Public Forum competitor Astrid Harrington said.

Additionally, freshman and Dramatic Performance competitor Audrey Hilger explained how the abundance of rooms used for this tournament may have caused confusion. “I think it would’ve been nicer if we [were] all less spaced out because everyone was on different floors, which might have confused competitors from other schools,” Hilger said.

Overall, students feel that the turnout of the Grands tournament was a success, especially with the novelty of hosting Stuyvesant’s first in-person tournament in years. “For many of us, this is our first time hosting a tournament at Stuy for Speech and Debate, so there’s definitely a lot of kinks to be ironed out [...]. For our first time hosting a tournament for everyone, everything came together really wonderfully,” junior and Extemporaneous Speech competitor Kai Li said.

Many students enjoyed this year’s tournament in particular because of the variety of food that was offered. “We had a lot of home-cooked food. We had a lot of Indian food, a lot of Chinese food, and we also bought food from restaurants,” Tang said.

Debaters were pleased with the fact that the tournament was hosted at Stuyvesant, which was beneficial due to their familiarity with the layout of the building. “I get the home turf advantage. So I knew where every place was. I didn’t really have to think about where I was going, like I just knew how to get around, and I can direct other people, actually,” Liu said.

In addition, hosting the tournament at Stuyvesant greatly boosted students’ involvement. “Usually for our tournaments, we would travel to Midtown or all the way up to the Bronx [...]. The fact that this [competition] was at Stuy means that everyone could come,” Kai Li said. “This being a Grands tournament, where we are the host, means that we want to show as much hospitality as we can [...]. That’s why everyone got involved.”

Freshman and Public Forum competitor Annie Li expressed how competing in the tournament allowed her to be open-minded in regard to future competitions both inside and outside of Speech and Debate. “The biggest thing I learned was you shouldn’t underestimate yourself or overestimate your opponents. I think a lot of the time we like to psych ourselves out, especially in competitive settings, or we like to compare ourselves to people who we don't know that well,” Annie Li said.

In working together, students were able to take pride in volunteering and competing in the event. “I’m really proud of all of the people who have worked really hard for this [...] even if they didn’t do as well as they thought or they didn’t even compete,” Liu said. “We’re really grateful for all the work that they put into volunteering and preparing for [this] Speech and Debate [...] tournament. I think it’s really admirable what we’ve done together as a community.”