Salesian Debate Club – Manhattanville College Ethics Bowl

By Aaron Jiang ‘23

The Debate Club has always had a more subtle existence within the community of Salesian High School. However, with the growing number of new members, the members of the Debate Club have learned to embrace the challenges of debate, while facing the inevitable adversities. For instance, the first debate topic centered around this statement: “A just government ought to recognize an unconditional right of workers to strike.” Students had to develop an argument with sufficient evidence to back up their reasonings for any given side of that argument in the traditional rigid structure of a debate. Keep in mind that the Salesians haven’t grazed through the stages of debate for quite a long time now. Despite the hardships of obstacles that stand on this journey, our debate team still attempted to meet several hours throughout each week as they prepared for any upcoming competitions. Under the leadership of our debate moderators Mr. Daniel Romero and Mr. Joseph Servello, this determination of our debate members prevailed. 

We’ve suffered many individual losses with only one individual win by Joseph Roman Ⅳ,whom I believe has the potential as a debater to lead the club into an ambitious future. Our members quickly turned their attention to the Regional Ethics Bowl at Manhattanville College that occurred on February 5, 2022. Each school in the region was allowed to send more than one team for participation, with a restriction of only five members per team. To satisfy the remaining members of the debate team so that everyone could participate, Mr. Romero worked hard to search for a few more potential members. I initially desired to join debate, however, given the amount of my presence in various other commitments or clubs, it is impotent to state the inevitable schedule conflicts. Zoom meetings as opposed to traditional after school meets was one way for a solution. Therefore, a few others and I officially joined the debate just for the Ethics Bowl that was looming around the corner by January. 

Debate Club / Overview

After nights of zoom meets on top of everything else in our daily routine, we finally arrived at the sight of the competition at Manhattanville College. The competition was designed with three rounds that all ten plus schools from around the region participated in, with only the top four worthy schools advancing into the next: the semi-finals and finals. We each had been given fifteen cases since the beginning of the school year to study and research; however, the team actually only had a good month of preparation after the last traditional debate. In other words, we’ve never started worrying about it until after the Christmas break. Ten students from our school: Aidan O’Driscoll, Aaron Jiang, Jetmir Neziri, Justin Salgado, Ethan Castro, Joseph Roman Ⅳ, Elefterios Perselis, Thomas McCarthy, Ryan Turner, and Robert Marino, III, all represented Salesian proudly during this competition. The competition had three judges and one moderator. Each judge had a scoring sheet out of a total of sixty maximum points. Team one won against George Baker High, lost against Fairfield Prep, and lost against Poughkeepsie. The first loss was both a pure outperformance by Fairfield Prep and a poor performance within ourselves. However, the second loss was actually very close with all judges slightly favoring Poughkeepsie. Team two had all three wins against the other schools including Holy Child and Arlington High School. During the announcement, it was stated that although most schools brought two teams, only one team would be counted for the whole school into the semi-finals. It would otherwise have been less of a competition if two teams from the same school were competing with each other. 

Debate Club - St. Patrick School - Smithtown, NY

As I recall the announcement, this was the simplified version: In fourth place we have Fairfield Prep; In third place we have Salesian High School; In second place we have Poughkeepsie; In first place we have Regis High School. This was exciting news as Ms. Christina Piazza was also present to give us support that afternoon. It wasn’t clear which team exactly made it in for us. Regardless, if one team made it, the whole school made it. Semi-finals: Fairfield Prep against Regis High School and Poughkeepsie against Salesian High School. The debate seemed to go very well for our team. One of the judges was heard making remarks like, “I don’t understand your argument” to Poughkeepsie. Mr. Romero and Mr. Servello both thought our team performed  exceptionally well. During the Q&A, Poughkeepsie also had a harder time answering some of the questions from the judges. The verdict of the judges: 49 to 49 for the first judge resulting in a draw; 48 to 52 for the second judge resulting in four points lead for Poughkeepsie; 33 to some 40 plus points from the third judge. To everyone’s surprise, Poughkeepsie came triumphant. Immediately after, the moderator came up to our debate members expressing his concern about what he also thought was an unfair verdict: “You guys should’ve won that!” 

Debating and its Positive Effects on Students: Why the Debate Club is  Important | Rahway, NJ News TAPinto

Despite feeling cheated, we all stayed to witness the finals between Poughkeepsie and Regis High School. Such confidence, eloquence, and speed at which the Regis boys present, argue, and reason captivates the judges within their arguments. Their successive wins throughout the years were truly rightfully merited. Poughkeepsie, unfortunately, wasn’t able to pull through on Regis like they did with Salesian, henceforth they were completely crushed by Regis with huge score gaps across all three judges’ verdict. Regis High School will advance forward to the National Ethics Bowl in Ohio from what I’ve gathered. Many of our members truly believed in a different outcome if it was another judge judging our competition with Poughkeepsie. Many of us believed we had the ability to stand against or even triumph over Regis if we’d won against Poughkeepsie. Despite many of the regrets listed above, we have the victory of placing Salesian on the map. The chairwoman of Philosophy at Manhattanville College was extremely impressed with Salesian’s performance especially as a rookie team. We will be back stronger than ever next year to the Ethics Bowl to give more schools like Regis High School a run for their money.