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Groups launch two-day speech/debate event

Three MIT student groups have joined to create MIT's first intramural speech and debate event, which welcomes the participation ofstudents, faculty and staff.

In the Speech and Debate Open '98 (SDO) on Saturday-Sunday, Oct. 10-11, students will compete in four rounds of debate or speech followed by semifinals and finals, and faculty and staff members are invited to act as judges and participants in their own part of the event.

"The Open [aims] to improve and showcase participants' speaking and reasoning skills while encouraging staff, faculty and students to interact and exchange views on MIT-centered issues," said Gary Li, director of the SDO Group, president of the MIT Debate Team, in a letter inviting participation.

"We seek members of the staff and faculty to judge competitive events, provide feedback on issues of concern to them, and potentially participate in a special 'MIT Forum' in which teams drawn from staff and faculty debate a major campus issue. No prior experience in speech or debate is required for any of these roles."

Student contestants in the speech segment will give memorized presentations in the categories of humorous interpretation, dramatic interpretation, impromptu (an unprepared speech on a randomly chosen topic), or duo interpretation (in which two people read or give a memorized performance of a literary work). All the events are limited to 10 minutes, except impromptu, which is no more than four minutes.

In the debate events, two teams of two persons each prepare affirmative and negative arguments on a topic chosen before the debate. They then compete in a structured format of affirmative and negative argument presentations, cross-examinations and rebuttals.

SDO had its beginnings when the new board of the MIT Debate Team was elected last spring. Members including Amit Roy, the new vice president of finance and a sophomore in electrical engineering and computer science, decided to seek funding for an intramural debate tournament. The Debate Team subsequently joined with the Speech Team and Counterpoint in applying for funding and helping with planning.

The Campus Activities Complex Program Board eventually approved funding; more recently, Chicago Pizza, the MIT Copy Technology Centers and The Tech have also become sponsors.

As a result of discussions among the three groups and the CAC board, "the event changed from a speech and debate tournament to something more like a forum for MIT issues," said Mr. Li, a junior in economics.

"We hope to make SDO a part of MIT tradition, bringing together the entire community to meaningfully discuss MIT issues and just have fun. If we are successful in that goal, then all our efforts have been well worth it," said Mr. Li.

To register for SDO '98 or to get more information, send e-mail to, or call x5-8831.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on September 16, 1998.

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