This past weekend, the Speech and Debate team competed at the Tournament of Champions at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Kentucky. Quarry Lane won third place in the team sweepstakes, despite being a small school, thanks to the combined contribution and performance of every single competitor from our school.
Junior Aliva Panigrahi, despite a setback with her registration entry, competed in Humorous Interpretation and garnered countless laughs with her performative interpretation of Hasan Minhaj's 2015 Radio and Television Correspondents' Dinner speech. Junior Sai Karavadi competed in Lincoln-Douglas Debate, ending the weekend with a 4-2 preliminary record and as a double-octafinalist. Sai also received an award for 13th speaker. Sophomore Anik Sen and junior Keya Vijapure competed in Public Forum debate and finished with a record of 3-4, proving to the entire national circuit that they hold great competitive potential for the next season. Seniors Ahana Sen and Allen Abbott, also competing in Public Forum debate, earned an impressive record of 6-1 in preliminary rounds and placed in the top 16 teams as they lost in octofinals. It is with great love and appreciation that we give our farewell to Ahana and Allen, who organized, built, and established both the Quarry Lane Speech and Debate Travel Team as well as Quarry Lane's presence on the national debate circuit. More importantly, however, is the immense pride our school should have for how Ahana and Allen ended their final round.
Ahana and Allen had been debating a topic about increasing H1-B visas for people coming to the U.S.. Ahana and Allen's arguments revolved around the value of advocating for the womxn who experience domestic violence in the H1-B system, especially because they have no advocates in the real world right now. As usual, Ahana gave her speech defending the proposal that we should increase the amount of H1-B visas, and her opponent gave a speech defending the opposite position. Throughout the tournament, Ahana and Allen had felt somewhat disappointed with themselves for winning rounds on these arguments without doing anything after or before the tournament to actually help these womxn. That is why, when Ahana's opponent asked her in octofinals if she would be willing to concede the round (give up the round and let the other team win) and sit down and have a discussion about the domestic violence these womxn experience instead, she immediately said yes.
What followed was a discussion both about the domestic violence that harms womxn stuck in the H1-B visa system, and also a discussion about the harmful ways that national debate has created and perpetuated gender norms that hurt womxn in debate. This is highlighted by many studies that establish how womxn often quit debate at a much higher rate than other groups, they experience less national success than males for gendered reasons, they are often not in most elimination rounds at tournaments, are shut out of teams due to the creation of male-privileging cliques that don't work with or prep with womxn, and countless other harms.
During the discussion, there was also talk about how low-income debaters and womxn of color, especially black and Latinx womxn, are even further disadvantaged. Everyone in the room, including the judges and the audience, was invited to participate in the discussion. Everyone participated in the emotion. Around the room, the impact of their discussion was evidenced by womxn in tears because of the beautiful and amazing thing Ahana Sen did and said that Allen Abbott immediately participated in right alongside her.
Furthermore, even though Ahana had agreed she would be willing to lose the round and conceded to her opponents, one of the 3 judges in the round who was also a womxn decided to vote for Ahana in solidarity.
We are extremely proud of Ahana and Allen for giving up their final round to promote a discussion about the gendered violence in Public Forum debate. This is unprecedented, momentous, and was done in the octofinals round of the Tournament of Champions, the most prestigious national tournament in the Speech and Debate season. Throughout the country, people are showing support for Ahana and Allen, finding them to be role models, and looking up to Ahana as a leader, connection, and friend for all womxn of color. Moreover, their efforts have already made an impact.