Cash up for grabs at Cabin Fever debate tournament

Aurora Dordan makes her points during last year’s Cabin Fever Debate tournament. (Photos by Mike Dineen)

The University of Alaska debate team is giving away money.

How much money? That depends on how hard people duke it out with each other in the sixth annual Cabin Fever Debates tournament.

Steve Johnson, director of the Seawolf debate program, said a total of $2,000 are up for grabs for outstanding teams and individuals during the event.

The winning team of two is awarded $1,000. The semifinalist team and top individual speaker win $100 and the finalist team is awarded $200. The remaining sum of money will be distributed through various other awards.

“It’s an outreach effort,” Johnson said.

He said the tournament is open to the first 32 teams of two people who register online at http://www.uaa.alaska. edu/seawolfdebate/CabinFeverDebates/ registration.cfm.

While single applicants are accepted, priority is given to duos.

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Johnson recommends that individuals wanting to participate should seek a debate partner on the group’s Facebook page, which can be found by typing “2013 Cabin Fever Debates” into the Facebook search bar.

He said each pair of teams is assigned to debate for or against a topic and given a week to prepare their speeches.

“They’re not necessarily arguing from their own convictions,” he said.

While the Seawolf debate team is mostly known for their national and international competitive success, Johnson said the Cabin Fever Debates were created to give other students a taste of the art of debate which includes informed advocacy, persuasion and critical thinking.

He said there are usually at least two former UAA debate team members on hand to judge the competition, chiefly focusing on one’s persuasiveness while arguing points and the debater’s ability to convince an audience of a particular perspective.

One of this year’s judges is Amie Stanley. She is a UAA graduate with a degree in political science and marketing and former

Aurora Dordan makes her points during last year’s Cabin Fever Debate tournament.  “I love the Cabin Fever Debates. It’s one of my really big passions,” she said.

Stanley earned a spot on the UAA competitive debate team after winning the Cabin Fever Debates in 2008 one of her professors offered extra credit to students who participated.

After graduating from UAA last spring, she accepted a job offer to be the team’s  assistant debate coach.

But not all first experiences are so successful.

Jaron Saturnino, psychology and political science junior, won last year’s top speaker and the Quianna Clay Prize for Excellent in Debating.

Tim Truer consults with teammate Erik Woebler at last year’s Cabin Fever Debate.

His first Cabin Fever experience was less than perfect though.

“I did a Cabin Fever two years ago and that was terrible and humiliating,” he said.

He had a speech prepared for his opening argument, but the opposing team spoke first and destroyed all his points in the first turn.

What was different the second time around?

“I spent a lot more time researching and was prepared to be flexible,” he said.

Current members of the competitive UAA debate team and UAA debate team alumni will also be on hand to help coach teams for the event.

“There are a lot of people really enthusiastic about helping people learn to debate,” Johnson said. Last January, the Seawolf debate team ranked second in the World Universities Debating Championships at De La Salle University in Manila, Philippines. They placed second only to Yale University, surpassing prestigious schools such as Harvard and Cornell Universities.

They were also rated ninth in the world in the 2012 World Debate Council Rankings, which includes renowned schools in their ranking, such as Oxford University in England and the University of Sydney in Australia.

The best tip that can be given to newbies who might aspire to compete internationally one day?

“Public speaking will always be terrifying so don’t worry about it,” Saturnino said.

Participants must be a UAA undergraduate or graduate student enrolled in at least six credit hours. Visit http://www. for more information, or call Johnson at 907-786-4391.