Boston Debate League

BDL Debaters Show What They’ve Learned at Harvard Tournament

February 23, 2022 | By Roger Nix

The BDL's Strongest Debaters Take on a National Tournament

While the typical BDL tournament has around 200 students competing, the 48th Annual Harvard National Forensics Tournament hosted a mind-boggling 3,770 students last weekend. Among those were 11 of the strongest BDL competitors – who had some big things to say.  

The highlight of the tournament was BDL’s win by Fenway High School debaters Eliana Rivas and Neurelis Bautista in the second annual Debate de Políticas en Español (Spanish Policy Debate) event. The BDL encouraged the creation of this event last season to create a national opportunity for all students who want a chance to take on the rigors of policy debate in Spanish-language debate, and Harvard has been a gracious and supportive host of the event.

The final round (full video here) was an intense debate over the impact of CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) and how they pollute water resources. The affirmative team argued CAFOs need substantial reform to reduce pollution, while the negative team argued that effective reform would be impossible without first deconstructing the capitalist system that encourages companies to create CAFOs.

BDL local tournament debates have focused on cases produced by our programming team about Water Privatization and Fracking. At BDL tournaments, these two cases have been the focus of what students learn throughout the year about water resources. At the Harvard Tournament, every debate is at the same level as our local Varsity Division. This means that in every round, our students are exposed to a new case within the water resources topic and have to determine a strategy to debate for or against that topic. Over the past weekend, our debaters argued about many new water resources topics such as the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, delegating water rights in the Clean Water Act to Native American tribes, conserving wetlands, and improving water-use efficiency in agriculture, among others.

One other highlight of the weekend was the community building that was able to take place at the BDL office. While the Harvard Tournament is typically a moment of excitement where our most competitive debaters get to travel together and be in-person for the tournament, the tournament was online again this year due to the pandemic. The BDL took this opportunity to create a “war room” at our office – hosting debaters, coaches, and programming staff. It was clear that the debaters enjoyed the sense of community they built, and of course the food!

We’re hoping to be back in-person for Harvard next year, but for now, we’re looking forward to seeing students take what they learned back to the BDL High School City Championship tournament on March 18-19. Other upcoming events include BDL Middle School City Championship on March 11-12, City Finals on March 25, and our annual End of Year Awards ceremonies in early April.

Debaters hanging out at the BDL office between rounds.

Even though the Harvard Tournament was virtual, debaters, coaches, and programming staff came to the BDL office to build community and celebrate the excitement of the tournament.

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