USyd wins Worlds University Debating Championships

University of Sydney students Emma Johnstone and James Leeder bested their sharp-tongued colleagues from the likes of Harvard and Oxford to win the Worlds University Debating Championships.

Worlds University Debating Championships winners Emma Johnstone and James Leeder. Worlds University Debating Championships winners Emma Johnstone and James Leeder.

University of Sydney (USyd) students Emma Johnstone and James Leeder bested their sharp-tongued colleagues from the likes of Harvard and Oxford to win the World University Debating Championships on Tuesday evening.

This year witnessed one of the University of Sydney Union’s (USU) most successful international performances, with semi-finalist Evie Woodforde named the competition’s fourth best speaker and all six teams in the USyd contingent breaking into the tournament’s top 48 after competing in nine preliminary rounds.

Ms Johnstone and Mr Leeder faced off in the four-team British Parliamentary style grand final, arguing in favour of universal jurisdiction for crimes against the environment; where universal jurisdiction is the idea that states can prosecute crimes regardless of location.

In British Parliamentary debating, two teams are paired together on each side to form the ‘Government’ and the ‘Opposition’, creating the four-team final.

Once topics are released, each team has just 15 minutes to prepare.

The Sydney duo opened the debate for the Government by arguing that “environment harms are currently going unchecked and that an international mechanism was the only way to secure better outcomes,” Mr Leeder told Honi.

A team from the University of Oxford was tasked with closing the Government’s case. Teams from Yale University and Bates College spoke on behalf of the Opposition.

Mr Leeder believes it was teamwork and support, not simply a clever argument, that saw the team to victory.

“I think our team’s edge was probably having Emma, but more generally our partnership, which was a great foundation for the entire tournament,” he said.

“We’ve had a long history of debating together, and sharing this was a wonderful conclusion”.

“I think our overwhelming feeling though is one of gratitude. Any one of the Sydney teams could have been in our position, which reflects just how hard the society works, and how much support and collaboration is involved in getting such results.”

The English-language speaking competition saw students from over 250 universities representing over 90 countries.

USU President and Worlds competitor, Michael Rees, cited the contingent’s success on “years of hard work” and Union support.

“This year’s Worlds contingent was an exceptionally experienced and capable group of debaters and adjudicators”.

“Additionally, the support offered by the USU and particularly Samantha Trodden allowed our debaters to perform at their best”.

“We are incredibly proud of what our debaters have achieved… [and] our younger debaters achieving great success – the future of our society is in good hands.”

To find out more or to become a member of the USU Debating Society click here.

Disclaimer: Evie Woodforde is a member of the Honi Soit editorial team. She was not involved in the production of this article and the fact it is reported on above is because it is a newsworthy achievement. Nevertheless, we would like to vehemently confess our utmost pride for her success.

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