News Release: Arts and Humanities, People, Student Life

Apr. 14,  2010

Barkley Forum Wins Two National Debate Titles

Rex Copeland Winners Emory University juniors Ovais Inamullah (left) and Stephen Weil won the Rex Copeland Award.

Barkley Forum debaters, coaches and alumni take an active role in the Urban Debate League, a nationwide movement that seeks to establish and promote the benefits of competitive debate among urban youth in 24 U.S. cities.

Emory University juniors Stephen Weil and Ovais Inamullah have won the Rex Copeland Award - the national title - as the top two-person debate team in the country based on their season-long records. Weil also finished with the national title for the top individual debater, receiving the Ross Smith Award.

As members of Emory's Barkley Forum, one of the nation's top debate programs, the duo defeated teams from Northwestern, Harvard and Michigan State universities and Whitman College that finished in the top five. More than 1,500 students competed in two-person teams in intercollegiate debate over a tournament season that stretched from mid-August to mid-March.

At the National Debate Tournament, where the awards were announced, Emory qualified the maximum of three teams to the NDT for the 16th year in a row (a nationally unprecedented "streak"), and all three qualified after 16 hours of preliminary competition for the sudden death elimination rounds. The Ovais-Weil team finished fifth, Freshmen Rajesh Jegadeesh and Ross Gordon finished eighth, and junior Ana Nikolic and sophomore Megan Swenson finished 16th.   

Ed Lee, Emory's director of debate, received the James J. Unger Award for coaching the Copeland team. Lee also will receive the Outstanding Alumnus Award at the National Association for Urban Debate Leagues annual dinner at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City on April 22. Final 2010 national squad rankings will be announced in late April.

"The Barkley Forum has had unprecedented national recognition over the last month in intercollegiate debate, a tribute to an exceptional community of students, alumni, administrators and coaches," says Melissa Maxcy Wade, executive director of forensics at Emory.

Emory Debate Wins National "Decade" Awards

Barkley Forum alumni and a current coach also were cited in a national survey as the best team and judge of the decade in intercollegiate debate. For more than 30 years, Bill Southworth, historian of the National Debate Tournament and professor of communications at the University of Redlands, has conducted the poll.

For the years 1999-2009, the Emory team of Kamal Ghali and Stephen Bailey were named winner of the "team of the decade award." "That they graduated in 2001 speaks to the significance of their accomplishments, since only three of their four years of competitive performance were eligible for evaluation," Wade says. 

Barkley Forum coach and Emory alumnus David Heidt (winner of the NDT in 1996) was named "judge of the decade," with director of debate Lee in eighth place. Kamal graduated from University of Michigan Law School and is now an attorney in Atlanta with Bondurant, Mixson & Ellmore. Stephen graduated from Yale Law School and is now CEO of Frontier Strategy Group in Washington, D.C.  Both continue to be active in Urban Debate League work and serve on the Barkley Forum endowment steering committee.


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