Student debaters from six colleges look to win first-ever South Jersey Criminal Justice Debate Invitational at Rowan

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Thirty-three college students from six institutions across the Delaware Valley will show off their debate skills in the first-ever South Jersey Criminal Justice Debate Invitational on Saturday, April 12, at Rowan University.

Students from Rowan, Rutgers University’s Camden campus, Temple University, Cumberland County College, Camden County College and Wilmington University will participate in debates focusing on this resolution: “Criminal justice crime control policies are better for society than due process policies.”

The invitational, which will be held in Rowan’s Chamberlain Student Center off Route 322 in Glassboro, will be a public forum style debate. Students from each school will work in teams of two as they participate in five rounds of debates. Each round will be rated by one judge.

Debates begin at 9 a.m. The championship round is expected to start at approximately 1 p.m.

Debates will be held at 9, 10, 11, noon and 1 p.m. Each team will debate twice.

The top prize, a plaque with a gavel on it, will go to the institution with the top two scoring teams. The award is perpetual and will be engraved with the institution’s name and passed around for subsequent years.

Rowan Law & Justice Studies Professor Michael Vigorita says his hope is that the tournament will be held for years to come—and will move from institution to institution. Vigorita and students in the newly formed Law & Justice Debate Team are organizing the event.

Interestingly, the debaters will learn the side of the debate they will argue just five minutes before their session starts. The side will be determined by a simple flip of a coin. The public forum debate is the style of debate practiced by the National Forensic league. The individuals on each team will take turns stating their cases as they complete each round.

“The students will have to prepare for debating both sides of the topic. They are taking this seriously. There’s a lot of pride going on here,” he says.

The debate topic—crime control versus due process—“is a strong academic topic…and there’s a lot of currency in it as well,” says Vigorita.

Great debaters are organized, clear and concise, says Vigorita.

“You need to hit on key points in an organized way and then come back to your key points,” he says. “You have to demonstrate relevancy in your argument. It’s really about stating your position concisely and clearly and articulating what’s important.

“You can’t just throw out a lot of information. You have to use logic, information and emotion as you try to persuade the judge.”

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