Friday, January 11, 2008

Oxford duo dubbed top debaters

Oxford duo dubbed top debaters

Oxford University's two-man team bagged the King's Championship Trophy at the 28th World Universities Debating Championship (WUDC), which ended late on Friday.

Published on January 6, 2008

Samir Deger-Sen and Lewis Iwu impressed the judges with their compelling arguments on the topic of HIV/Aids and sex during the final round in Pattaya.

As the "closing government" team, the Oxford duo won loud applause from thousands of students and others attending when they argued for accountability in intimate relationships.

Using a parliamentary style, all four final teams were assigned separate roles, with Cambridge University, also of the UK, as the "opening opposition" team, Monash University of Australia as the "opening government" team and the University of Sydney as the "closing opposition" team.

The final topic was "This house would require those who infect others with HIV to make drug-support payments."

Deger-Sen of Oxford said the two had had to think quickly on their feet.

"It was a difficult motion because we hadn't thought about it before. There're not many arguments, and so we thought we were the closing team: we'd run out of arguments, but luckily we had many things to say."

The pair made it through with Iwu, originally from Nigeria, as the star of the team.

His mannerisms provoked both laughs and applause from the audience.

"When you have sex, you also say: 'I implicitly bear all the consequences of the sexual act'," he said. "It's pretty irresponsible for you not to get checked. We say in our world you should get checked if you are going to be a sexually active person."

This was his strongest argument in the context of debating sex as a contractual relationship where partners should take responsibility for their actions.

The Oxford team defeated Mhairi Murdoch and Daniel Warrents from Cambridge, Tim Jeffrie and Fiona Prowse from Monash and Christopher Croke and Dominic Thurbon from Sydney.

Rishikesh Chabra, communications director for WUDC's Thai chapter, said the Oxford team had not had the strongest case but Iwu had been the most engaging speaker and appeared to be in total control of his delivery.

Both Iwu and Deger-Sen have been debating for 15 years. Iwu is a freshman at Oxford, studying politics, philosophy and economics (PPE), while Deger-Sen is switching from PPE to international relations.

"[The competition] is a good chance to research about the world, stand up to give a speech in front of audiences and be able to quickly evaluate arguments and premises and propositions you have about the world," Iwu said.

Deger-Sen instinctively supported the motion for people infecting others with HIV to make a drug-support payment.

Iwu has no idea what he wants to do after college, but Deger-Sen hopes to attend law school in the US and become a lawyer or an academic in international relations.

The WUDC King's Championship Trophy drew about 400 teams from 185 universities around the world.

It's the first time Thailand has hosted the prestigious event, in which students from Chulalongkorn, Thammasat, Khon Kaen and Mahidol universities were also competing.

The Masters' Final, held at the Thai Alangkarn Pattaya, will be available for viewing tomorrow at

Lisnaree Vichitsorasatra

The Nation

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