Volume 90, Issue 93

Thursday, March 20, 1997



Western Debating Society - the Dal story

Re: University of Western Ontario Debating Society

To the Editor:

Simply saying that we won the national debating championships in no way captures what we went through last weekend. What happened is a tale that if a Hollywood script writer were to produce the story, it would be rejected as being unrealistic, serial and corny. It is however, all true.

We left London Wednesday night for a 24-hour marathon drive to Halifax's Dalhousie University. The plan was to arrive in Nova Scotia Thursday evening and then see the town on Friday morning. These plans never seem to work as anticipated.

Around three in the afternoon on Thursday, we were driving through Sussex, New Brunswick (I'll never forget the name of that town). I was in the passenger seat of our Ford Winstar minivan. Everybody else, except for myself and the driver, was sleeping. As we were passing a car going far under the speed limit, we hit a large spot of black ice.

Everything else happened very quickly. We shot out at a 45 degree angle across the other lane, grazing the car we had just passed. We then drove off the road, did a full flip in the air and rolled two or three times along the ground. The van landed on its wheels. Needless to say, everybody woke up.

My first concern as the society's fearless leader was to make sure nobody was hurt. Luckily, there were no serious injuries. Then I realized that I was bleeding quite heavily from my lip and hands. The driver was also cut on her face from the shattered windshield.

A quick ambulance ride, two stitches, a few bandages and an eye patch for the driver later, we were fine. We also realized at this point how truly lucky we were to be able to walk away from the crash that totalled the van. (Gotta be seat belts). Of course, we were still four hours from Halifax with no way of getting there.

After staying in Sussex's finest hotel for the night, we rented our second van of the trip from the only car rental agency in town for the same amount that it cost us to rent one for five days in London. Can you say monopoly?

After the ordeal of the trip, actually getting to Halifax and debating seemed like a godsend. After lapping up the sympathy and concerns of our fellow competitors who knew about our accident, we got down to the reason why we had risked life and limb in the first place – to win a championship.

Western had four teams at nationals. The team of Ranjan Agarwal and Vivienne Suen went four and two and finished 14th in Canada (out of 54 teams of the best teams from 35 schools). Veer Gidwaney and Ashley Misquitta also went four and two and were named the top novice team in Canada, finishing 13th in the nation.

Western's other two teams advanced to the quarter-finals and then semis with the team of Casey Halladay and Shuman Ghosemajumder going against a team from Guelph while Brent Patterson and myself went against a team from the University of Toronto.

After what seemed like an endless wait during the lunch break to find out the results, it was official: Western had advanced two teams to the final round. All that was left to decide was which team would be Western's first ever national champion.

Casey and Shuman were the government team and they ran a case that Canada made a mistake getting involved in the First World War. After one of the best final rounds in recent memory, Brent and myself won the day. This was only the second time in Canadian university debating history that two teams from the same school met each other in the final round of nationals.

After realizing that even national champions have to get home, we quickly decided that the thought of stepping into a van again was too much so, despite the fact that we are all going to have to declare personal bankruptcy in the next week, we took a very quick two-hour plane ride home.

The thing that makes me, and all the others on the team, proudest about the tournament is how it makes all of Western look. We are, by far, the best debating society in North America. When members of the administration talk about improving Western's academic image – we do that on a weekly basis. (Hopefully, when it comes time to ask them for money to help bail us out of the $3,000 hole we're in they'll remember that).

So, just like the cheesy Hollywood script, we faced all kinds of adversity, we persevered and we won. I'm glad I was able to be a part of it. I'm sure the team will never forget what we went through together.

Robert Silver
Social Science III

To Contact The Letters Department: gazoped@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1997