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LSU Shreveport Debate Team Overcomes Pandemic Restrictions, Claims Third in First Virtual Competition

October 21, 2020

By Bianca Stakes

Debate with masks
Socially distanced debate with masks.

Shreveport, LA—In its first virtual tournament appearance, the LSU Shreveport Debate Team won third place overall at University of Arkansas at Monticello’s Annual Weevil Wars Debate Tournament in early October.

Varsity debaters Ethan Arbuckle, Matthew Coleman and Dax Ramgoolam advanced to the elimination rounds. Arbuckle and Coleman finished as Octo-finalists, while Ramgoolam was named Varsity Division Champion. In the individual competition, graduate student Matthew Gedeon advanced to the semi-final round of the Professional Division and placed fourth for the tournament.

Before the national pandemic, the typical in-person nature of debate competitions offered invaluable collaboration between teammates. However, now that tournaments have gone virtual, the team has found opportunities along with challenges.

“Virtual has its own set of advantages and disadvantages,” Interim Director of Debate AJ Edwards said. “We lose so much of the cultural exchange between students from across the nation that is such an important aspect of collegiate debate and personal growth for the students. However, the ability to compete with these same students and institutions at a lower cost and with no travel time has allowed us to look at increasing the number of tournaments we can participate in.”

“I’ve done two virtual tournaments so far,” Varsity Debater Ethan Arbuckle said. “They’re organized the same way as a face-to-face tournament, and with less walking time and more screen time, we have actually been able to get more information than in face-to-face competition.”

Preparation for virtual competition pushed the team to think outside of the box and ensure tournament readiness in a new way.

“First, we still had to teach the basics of debate along with all of the more advanced aspects of debate theory, organization, and presentation,” Edwards said. “Then we had to figure out the best way to present these ideas in a virtual format where, due to possible video and audio, can often change the way the message comes across to the judge and fellow competitors.”

“When we prepared face-to-face, a group of debaters could help each other, write down evidence for each other, and practice giving the main ideas to our coaches and peers,” Arbuckle said. “For virtual, the only real difference is we do all our prep via discord and are unable to hand each other notes. There has been a bit of learning curve but everyone is catching on quickly.”

The team thanks the LSUS Administration, the College of Arts and Sciences, the Pandemic Action Team, and Facility Services for their continued support and assistance this year. For more information about the LSUS Debate Team, please contact Interim Director of Debate AJ Edwards at 318-751-8350 or

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