Emily Her

Los Altos/Notre Dame Wins Lay-Focused Totally Free Tournament

Emily Her
Los Altos/Notre Dame Wins Lay-Focused Totally Free Tournament

The month of October began this year with the Totally Free Tournament, hosted by Club Parli at Bishop O’Dowd High School in Oakland, with a final round between Bentley’s Irene Partsuf & Michael Rubsamen and Los Altos/Notre Dame’s Spencer Dembner & Lilly Hackworth.

Finalists Los Altos / Notre Dame Dembner & Hackworth (l) and Bentley Partsuf & Rubsamen (r)

Finalists Los Altos / Notre Dame Dembner & Hackworth (l) and Bentley Partsuf & Rubsamen (r)

Negating the resolution, “The United States Federal Government should impose substantial economic sanctions on the Democratic Republic of the Congo”, Dembner & Hackworth picked up on a 2-1 split decision.

In semifinals, Los Altos/Notre Dame defeated Berkeley’s Kai Burgmann & Cole McCann-Phillips on a 2-1 decision, affirming the resolution, “The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region should secede from the People’s Republic of China.” Partsuf & Rubsamen, the tournament’s top seed, walked over Bentley’s Alexander Hemerling & Shail Modi to reach finals.

In the novice division, there was no final round, since the top two teams, McKenzie Taffe & Meade Jacobsen and Neha Gupta & Aislinn Kenny, were both from Bishop O’Dowd.

Speaker awards were given to individuals with the third, second, and first highest speaker points during the tournament, which were Bentley’s Michael Rubsamen, Bentley’s Irene Partsuf, and Berkeley’s Cole McCann-Phillips, respectively. O'Dowd's Neha Gupta was the top novice speaker, followed by teammates Meade Jacobsen, and McKenzie Taffe. 

Club Parli’s launch tournament was the first of its kind. The Totally Free Tournament, like its name implies, was totally free— meaning that there was no entry fee and lunch was provided to judges and debaters.

The tournament was completely lay, with the invitation emphasizing that experienced judges would not be allowed. Debaters stated that they appreciated the casual dress code and the internet prep. Both policies made the tournament more inclusive and welcoming to a variety of schools and teams. “I was seeing teams on the pairings list that I have never seen before,” said Berkeley's Cole McCann-Phillips, “The TFT was able to attract teams that are not normally as involved in parli.” 

The tournament also included several novel additions. Before the four double-flighted rounds, novice debaters and judges were given a parliamentary debate tutorial and a judging seminar, respectively, with the judges proceeding to a lunchtime check-in to reflect on their rounds. 

“Creating a safe space in which judges didn’t feel criticized for being first-time judges was definitely helpful,” said Bishop O’Dowd’s Alden O’Rafferty. “Almost every judge was flowing the entire round.”

Furthermore, debaters gathered together after lunchtime to conduct the year's first General Assembly, conversing about concerns and recommendations for the season. Topics of increased inclusivity, outreach programs, and degrading personal remarks from judges and debaters were discussed in hopes of improving the debate community.

“This tournament definitely lived up to its goal of remaining proudly lay,” said Notre Dame debater Lilly Hackworth. “And, based on the breaks, [it] certainly gave more teams whose focus is on lay debate a chance to compete in outrounds.”


Los Altos/Notre Dame Spencer Dembner & Lilly Hackworth def. Berkeley Kai Burgmann & Cole McCann-Phillips (2-1)

Bentley Irene Partsuf & Michael Rubsamen w/o Bentley Alexander Hemerling & Shail Modi


Los Altos/Notre Dame Dembner & Hackworth def. Bentley Partsuf & Rubsamen (2-1)

Full results may be found on Tabroom

Our Northern California correspondents are Emily Her, who debates for Dougherty Valley High School, and Shannon Bonet, who debates for Campolindo High School.