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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

Media Contact: Jan Wenzel, 401-874-2116

URI chosen to host 2004 debate championships

Nearly 3,000 to 5,000 competitors,
coaches, and judges expected

KINGSTON, R.I. -- October 21, 2003 -- The National Forensic Association, a national association of more than 500 intercollegiate debate and speech programs, has chosen the University of Rhode Island to host its 2004 speech and debate championship tournament. This marks the first time in the association’s 33 -year history that the tournament has been held in the Northeast. The announcement comes at the same time the URI debate is celebrating its 110th year.

Anywhere between 3,000 to 5,000 competitors, coaches, and judges from nearly every state come to Providence to participate in the five-day event from April 15 though 19. The tournament is expected to bring more than $2-million to the capitol city.

College and university students will compete in public speaking, dramatic interpretation of literature, limited preparation speaking, and debate. Because of its size and need for separate rooms, the tournament will utilize space in numerous buildings around the metropolitan area. The main hub for the event, however, will be URI’s Feinstein Providence Campus, located at 80 Washington St.

"Providence is proud to serve as the host city for this exciting event. Some of America's brightest young minds will be in Providence next year, to test their ideas and poise in this championship tournament," said Mayor David N. Cicilline. "Providence - and the Northeast - is internationally-renowned for its outstanding institutions of higher learning. Those who are traveling here for this event, will see first-hand how we earned this reputation of excellence."

"This is an ideal way to feature Rhode Island and Providence," agreed Neil Alpert, an award-winning debater who graduated from URI in 2000. Alpert, along with John Devine, URI’s director of debate, led the effort to bring the tournament to the Ocean State. Alpert is now with Capitol City Advisors, a full service fundraising and event-planning firm based in Washington, D.C., which is organizing the event. Alpert said that the championships will bring more than earnest competition to Rhode Island, suggesting that plans are in the works to bring in some national newsmakers to the state.

"Neil has done, and is doing, a tremendous job. His dedication and professionalism are responsible for bringing the championships to Rhode Island," said Devine.

Debate, which is part of the URI College of Arts and Sciences Communication Studies Department, has been a tradition at URI since 1903 when the then Rhode Island State College, hosted debates on its quadrangle with other local colleges. Since then, the format in which the team competes has become much more structured, but the same spirit of proving a point continues.

Today the team is part of the National Forensics Association, which includes competitors from Boston University, Cornell, Northeastern, and Harvard.

URI has consistently qualified for the tournament. Last spring, two URI students, Stephen Osborn, a sophomore, and Kristen Maverick, a freshman, competed in the 2003 National Forensics Association Championships at Ball State University, Muncie, Ind., winning several preliminary rounds. Neither student had debated before coming to URI. Qualifying for nationals required them to make it to the elimination rounds during the regular season tournament.

"I’m proud to be part of this tradition at URI," says Devine. "It’s a privilege to work with these students who are as bright and capable and competitive as you will find. Debate is the essence of education. To do it, you learn the skills to take a set of facts and evaluate what they mean in a new context. Whether it’s a philosophy class or a science class, that is what education is about, not just learning ideas, but applying them to your life."

For More Information: Neil Alpert, 202-249-1977, John Devine, 401-874-4739

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Page last revised Wednesday, October 29, 2003 .