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Binghamton University Hosts Northeast Regional Debate Championship

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BINGHAMTON, N.Y. -

60 teams from Harvard, Dartmouth, and George Mason University competed alongside Binghamton University students in the Northeast Regional Debate Championship this weekend.  For ten hours each day, students crafted their arguments to qualify for the National Tournament next month.

Professor Joe Leeson-Schatz has been directing the Binghamton University Debate Team for 17 years. He said his students are very disciplined and study up to ten hours a day to prepare for a debate topic.

“When people are able to speak and able to listen to someone talking at 400 to 500 words per minute, think about how they want to respond to it, and are doing it all at the same time, when they take tests or in other walks of life, everything sort of moves in slow motion,” said Leeson-Schatz. “It really speeds up kids’ cognitive abilities to be able to decipher arguments and understand things.”

T.J. Buttgereit’s parents traveled all the way from Long Island to watch their son debate the issue of national health care, and go on to secure a spot in the National Tournament. Margie Buttgereit said she enjoys watching her son compete among students from other prestigious universities.

“We’ve seen him grow so much. As an individual, as a speaker, even the development of his own beliefs. And his own passion about some of the topics they talk about,” said Buttgereit.

What’s not up for debate is the level of success the university has gained. This is the third time Binghamton has hosted the Northeastern Championship. The team has progressed to Nationals every year for over a decade. Professor Leeson-Schatz said the competition helps Binghamton gain recognition as a prominent city for debating.

“It really shows that we are the premiere institution in the Northeast and really one of the Public Ivy’s that exist. Our students aren’t just competing, they’re also excelling against these other programs that have more funding than us and a lot of times have a higher national prestige,” said Leeson-Schatz. “But what it shows is that the students that come to Binghamton are as every bit as capable as students from Cornell, Harvard, and Dartmouth.”

Binghamton’s varsity debate team progressed to the next round and will compete in the National Debate Tournament next month in Wichita, Kansas. Professor Schatz said that debating is relevant for everyone, not just college students.

“I think this day in age there’s so much information out there, it’s almost like an information overload and debate helps people be able to sort through good information and bad information and have the ability to be determined what is actually fake news and what has sources to back up their claims.”