10th Annual Cabin Fever Debates

Photo by Ammon Swenson

Photo by Ammon Swenson

The 10th annual Cabin Fever Debates have wrapped up. The tournament gives UAA students who aren’t on the Seawolf debate team a chance to duke it out — verbally of course— and maybe win some cash prizes.

Brothers Anthony and Daniel Galarza are team Logos and made it into the final round. Anthony’s an engineering major and Daniel’s working on a business administration degree. They haven’t debated at UAA, but public speaking is right up their alley.

“I did about half a year of debate in community college in California and I did speech— I did a lot of speech and debate in high school, but not debate specifically,” said older brother Anthony, who Daniel calls the brains of the operation.

Anthony is hoping to get a spot on the UAA debate team.

Daniel doesn’t really have any aspirations to debate and is more interested in acting.

“I’ve never had any formal debate experience, however I did compete on the national circuit and state circuit in California for humorous interpretation…more acting focus events so I’ve been in public speaking, but this is my first time in debate,” Daniel said.

The final round took place in the arts building. The stage was set up with a podium flanked by two long tables. The final four teams took the stage, all looking professional. The women wearing skirts and cardigans and the men wearing collard shirts and ties.

As Professor Steve Johnson— the Seawolf debate coach— explained the rules of tournament, the pairs huddled together looking over their notes and having last minute discussions.

“It’s always a little nerve-racking when you first get on the stage, especially a stage as big as that,” Anthony said, “I think it’s a little easier for us, because we’ve got a bit of experience doing it, but you always have the nerves at first.”

Daniel said that he had the jitters, but he’s learned to deal with them.

“Just from experience and going in and being you know, happy and ready to go and have fun, that’s the best thing you can do that I use personally to quell that,” Daniel said.

The opening arguments began and the opposing sides took turns making their case, with the occasional interruption of a chair sliding back against the wooden stage.

A competitor would stand with their had raised, waiting for the speaker to give them a chance to interject and pick apart the argument. Most of the time, the speaker would wave them aside saying—

“Not at this time” or “not now” sometimes just “sit down.”

Every time the speaker made a solid argument, the crowd showed their support by banging their fists on armrests or tables, not shying away from making noise. No, it wasn’t that the crowd was getting out of control—  although that might have made things a bit more exciting—it’s tradition in the House of Commons and the debates follow British Parliamentary procedure.

“The most brief characterization of debating is that you’ve got one side arguing for and one side arguing against,” Johnson said. “The only difference is with this type of debate you’ve got two teams on the proposition and two teams on the opposition. They’re supposed to cooperate in so far as they’re advancing or opposing the motion, but they’re still competing independently to do it with the most creative arguments, the most well-supported arguments and the arguments that obviously appeal most to the judges.”

After the remarks wrapped up, people helped themselves to catered refreshments while the judges tallied up scores.

The semi-finalists and runners up were given their awards and Johnson presented the Quianna Clay Prize for Excellence in Debating. It’s given out to the top individual speaker in the tournament and is in honor Quianna Clay, who debated on the UAA team and passed away in 2003.

The award went to Anthony, but that’s not all. The Galarza brothers won.

While Daniel was happy to be half of the winning team, he was more excited for his brother, who has been working hard to get a spot on the UAA team.

“He just moved here and he’s been going to all the events, helping them, showing up to all the practices. So I think it’s really gratifying to get him as top speaker and winner of the tournament,” Daniel said.

The prize for first place is 1,000 dollars. Anthony said he might go for a computer upgrade and Daniel thinks he might take a trip back home to California.

Last night’s round was the 110th since the Cabin Fever Debates began. Professor Johnson said that it’s been getting better and better, with more participants every year and he’s already looking forward to next one.

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