MACON — Mercer University's debate team recently competed in the Delta Sigma Rho-Tau Kappa Alpha (DSR-TKA) National Championship Tournament in Gainesville, Fla., and came home with high honors. The team traveled to the University of Florida to compete and placed third in debate sweepstakes. Mercer also had three students place in the top five individual speakers, including sophomore philosophy and psychology major Caleb Maier of Milton, who was the top debate speaker in the tournament.
“Our team prepared well, and we had an excellent showing,” said James Stanescu, Mercer's director of debate, who has led the team since 2010. “This is Mercer's best showing in recent years, and I'm proud of our team.”
In addition to the successes of Maier and the team, several individuals and debate teams performed well. Freshman Gabriel Ramirez, an engineering major from Warner Robins, was fourth speaker and sophomore Hunter Pilkinton, a communication studies and political science major from Sycamore, was fifth speaker. Pilkinton and Lindsey Hancock, a sophomore English major from Thompson's Station, Tenn., advanced to the semifinals and Ramirez and Maier advanced to the quarterfinals.
The University maintains a long tradition of debate on campus since its founding in Penfield more than 180 years ago, with debate societies springing up on campus and debating one another. In addition, the University's orators won debating and speech competitions with competitors among other schools in Georgia and around the country. The Mercer University Oratorical Association was organized in 1897 to compete in intercollegiate debates and won a number of debate contests around the state. In 1898, Mercer's champion orator, John Roach Straton, won the first Intercollegiate Oratorical Championships in Atlanta. Debate continued to be a significant intercollegiate sport for many years after that, with Walter F. George, namesake of Mercer's law school, leading a team to victory over the University of Georgia at the Mercer-Athens Debate in 1899. Following the World Wars, Mercer debate enjoyed another resurgence, with a team in 1951 taking the Wachtel Award for legislative speaking at the National Tau Kappa Alpha Debating Tournament and Conference. The University has had success in more recent times, climbing in rankings for periods since the 1970s, including top 64 showings in 2005 and 2008.
The DSR-TKA national tournament brings schools from across the country to compete. DSR-TKA was originally two honor fraternities that merged in 1963. The society has 195 chapters and more than 58,000 members.