Public Debates · Videos

Rutgers, Columbia Revive Centuries-Old Tradition

The eight participants in the 2011 King's/Queen's Debate gather for a post-round embrace. Left to right: (From Columbia) Alex McHale, Ilana Rice, Denise Yu, Reid Bagwell, (From Rutgers) Chris Bergman, Bhargavi Sriram, Kyle Bomeisl, and David Reiss.

The Rutgers University Debate Union (RUDU) met members of the Columbia University Parliamentary Debate Society (CUPDS) last Friday night to revive the colonial tradition of the King’s/Queen’s Debates. The topic was: “This house believes that in liberal democracies, when a law that once made something illegal is repealed, anyone who is in prison for committing that crime when it was illegal should be immediately released.” Columbia (King’s) represented the government and Rutgers (Queen’s) opposed. No winner was declared in the exhibition debate, though RUDU Coach Storey Clayton served as speaker and nominal adjudicator. RUDU was represented by Kyle Bomeisl, Bhargavi Sriram, David Reiss, and Chris Bergman, while CUPDS was represented by Denise Yu, Reid Bagwell, Ilana Rice, and Alex McHale.

The round was recorded for posterity and can be viewed online:

King’s/Queen’s Debate from Denise Yu on Vimeo.

The King’s/Queen’s Debates were among the first intercollegiate debates ever held in North America, dating back to the pre-Revolutionary War days when Columbia was known as King’s College (founded 1754) and Rutgers was Queen’s College (founded 1766). While there is little documentation available on these debates, it is believed that they persisted until sometime in the 1800’s. The tradition has been dormant for over a century, but this revival is aimed to be the first of many in a new annual event designed to spark interest in both debate societies and increase public discourse on both campuses while bringing historical awareness and perspective to both student bodies.

While attendance was in the double-digits at this year’s event, the hope is that it will grow over time in the future. Columbia will host in odd-numbered years and Rutgers will host in even-numbered years. The 2012 King’s/Queen’s Debate is tentatively scheduled for April 2012 at Rutgers.

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