This post is written by Sam Wheldon-Bayes:
SOAS was back in action for its first IV of 2013 at the LSE-hosted London IV. Despite having had no practice since the tail-end of 2012, other than the inevitable holiday family squabbles, the SOAS Debating Machine roared back into life at the first time of asking with a resoundingly successful tournament – the winning team included a SOAS speaker, a SOAS speaker topped the speaker tab and a SOAS team topped the team tab.
SOAS sent 3 teams: SOAS A (Tim Knight and David Goldberg), SOAS B (Emily Judson and Henny Ziai) and, having been told “you can have a special name, you don’t have to be SOAS C”, SOAS Special (Charles Brook and Sam Wheldon-Bayes). The other SOAS speakers featuring were the treacherous Belize Harrison for Inner Temple A and, filling in for a missing partner, the charitable Ismaail Qaiyim for Imperial ULU. Nimisha Phillip was representing SOAS as a judge.
The first round motion read “THW not allow male circumcision of minors”. SOAS A and B were drawn on opposite sides of the same room; the civil war had started early. Thankfully SOAS took the win in the room: Emily and Henny were able to grasp victory. SOAS A had to make do with a third place despite Tim’s post-round protestations to Emily. Elsewhere, Belize took a win with SOAS Special and Ismaail both having to settle for a close seconds.
Onto round 2 and the motion was perhaps more widely relevant and certainly more in tune with the spirit of SOAS – “THBT democratic countries have no moral obligation to service debt incurred under previous dictatorial regimes”. SOAS Special, speaking in closing government, picked up their first win of the tournament, arguing principally that, since debt was not incurred by a legitimate representative of the people, it was not the responsibility of the people to pay it back. Elsewhere SOAS B and Inner Temple A also moved onto 5 points, both picking up second places. It was a disappointing round for Imperial ULU and SOAS A, with a 3rd and a 4th respectively.
Round 3 ticked two classic debating boxes – sports and topical. “THW not retroactively strip titles from sportspeople later found to have used performance enhancing drugs” or “Lance still has 7 Tour de France wins, right?”. Belize’s campaign was firmly back on track with a win, with Ismaail also picking up steam with a victory. Emily and Henny’s challenge was under threat as they stumbled to a 3rd place, with Tim and David growing in confidence as they took a second place. Worlds CA Harish Natarajan popped up for a spot of light judging, and it was under his watch that Charles and Sam picked up a second consecutive win – this time from opening government. He did, however, heavily imply that their victory was more down to other teams’ inability to engage with the motion and gave the pair plenty to work on.
Going into closed adjudication, Round 4 featured a motion that, had they been on side proposition, both Charles and Henny insisted that they “would have resigned from the tournament over”. The contentious motion in full was “TH condemns Hamas, not Israel, for the deaths of Gazan civilians from missile strikes” – it’s not hard to see why Charles was so glad to be opening opposition.
Tim and David continued their resurgance, picking up a win against several teams from Cambridge – an impressive achievement since it was David’s first ever IV and they were arguing on the proposition side. When asked about that last round win, David acknowledged that they had been up against it, saying “We won the 4th round in the “morally objectionable” Prop thanks to Tim’s straightforward and clear argumentation. As for me, I just repeated what FOX News had told me about Hamas.”
With SOAS Special and Inner Temple A on 8 points and SOAS B and Imperial ULU on 6, there was a slim chance that all 4 teams in the final could have been from SOAS. SOAS B and Imperial ULU both did what was required of them, picking up wins to take them onto 9 points. It was left to SOAS Special and Imperial ULU, drawn in opening and closing opposition respectively, to take 1st and 2nd place between them and force 8-point opening government Oxford Red into a 4th to guarantee that every team in the final featured a speaker from SOAS.
The game was on. In the final room, Charles and Sam were once again judged by Harish Natarajan – the perfect opportunity to put his recommendations into practice. Sam’s task in prep was clear – calm Charles down. South London’s most passionate pro-Palestine activist was verging on a full-scale meltdown. In the end, Charles contained himself and delivered a stinging, yet professional speech to help him and Sam to 1st place over the equally impressive Inner Temple A. Sadly for Ismaail, Oxford Red picked up a 3rd place, meaning that the teams to contest the final were: SOAS Special on 11 points, Inner Temple on 10 points, SOAS B on 9 points and Oxford Red on 9 points – Ismaail had missed out on speaker points.
The final itself featured an intriguing motion, and a high quality debate. “THW allow individuals to sue their marital or non-marital partners for damages on the grounds of infidelity”. As top breaking team, Sam drew first for speaking position. He unfolded the paper and sighed. “OG?” asked the CA, correctly guessing what was written on that fateful slip. Henny and Emily were opposite Sam and Charles in OO, with Oxford Red in CG and Belize and her partner Rose closing the debate, and the tournament, in CO.
Sam spoke first, restricting the motion to long-term relationships who had explicitly or implicitly agreed to be monogamous, with the inevitable grey areas to be unpicked by the courts. He delivered a speech which attempted to justify the role of the state in personal relationships, characterising infidelity as emotional violence. He claimed that on this issue there were gaps between common understanding of morality and law and also the way in which the law treated physical and emotional violence. Henny and Emily’s case strongly rejected this position for the state, and called into question the motivation of the policy – it was wrong, in their view, for the state to take such a role in enforcing societal norms and had worrying implications on the nature of trust in relationships. In contrast, Charles argued that by sending a strong message to men that dishonest promiscuity was unacceptable, we would empower women.
Onto the second half and Oxford delivered a robust pair of speeches. Their case focused not on the marginal, but was instead concentrated on the effects to married couples. It would, they said, reduce infidelity, which was a good thing. Belize countered well, with a strong extension speech highlighting the effects on women and children, and how it severely reduced the capacity for reconciliation. Rose closed the tournament in superb style, delivering a comprehensive summary of her team’s case for victory along with a series of stinging attacks on the points of all 4 proposition speakers.
In the judges eyes, there was only one winner: they unanimously chose the impressive Belize Harrison and Rose Harvey of Inner Temple A after a fantastic final debate. There was yet more joy for SOAS as Henny Ziai picked up the top speaker prize with 305 speaker points, ahead of Belize, Sam and Charles, all on 303, who had to be separated by standard deviation of speaker scores. SOAS Debating Society would like to thank LSE debating society, the tournament conveners, all the judges and the CA team for a great tournament.