Society profile: The great debaters
Meet the Sodales Debating Society
Julia Manoukian - March 13, 2013
Think you’ve got what it takes to win an argument? Can you keep your cool during a heated exchange? Are you able to keep things from getting personal when someone deliberately and effectively questions your point of view? You may be suited for debating.
Sodales, the Dalhousie Debating Society, has less than three weeks left in the competitive debating season, but it’s never too late to join the conversation.
“At this point, the society has more new members than ever before, and we're very excited to have more people involved,” says Emma Robillard Cole, vice-president of Sodales.
She explains the society’s name comes from the Latin for “companions” or “sociable.” “The society both promotes debate as an educational tool, and helps students and members of the broader community access opportunities to develop debating skills,” she says. “Debate topics range from social policy to financial regulation, bioethics, and beyond.” Recently in the quarter-finals of a McGill tournament, a Sodales team presented a topic on how the Academy Awards were determined, for example.
Sodales has been continuously operating at Dalhousie for well over a century. The earliest documentation dates back to 1879, but society history indicates it was founded earlier. Membership is open to students from both Dalhousie and King’s, and the club is a founding member of CUSID (the governing body that facilities inter-varsity debating in Canada).
Skills across disciplines
Robillard Cole encourages students from all disciplines to join, as each brings a unique academic prowess to the table. “Members are Dalhousie undergrads from all disciplines: FYP students, Biology PhD students, Law students, the list goes on,” she says. “Participating in a society like Sodales means personally connecting with the diversity present at Dalhousie.”
She says this year the society wanted to not only increase recruitment, but increase the number of debating opportunities as well. “Last year we providing funding for 101 individual debating opportunities,” she says. “This year it rose to 154.”
Sodales attends CUSID tournaments across Canada, as well as international competitions such as the World Universities Debating Championships. It annually hosts one or two CUSID tournaments and two high school/junior high tournaments, as well as several one-day mini-tournaments for Dal and King’s students. The society hosted the Atlantic Regional Championships this past weekend, March 8-10, with the Sodales team of Harry Joshi and Walter Jothiraj pulling out the first-place win.
“Sodales also provides support to local high school debating programs,” says Robillard Cole. “Many members have coached teams, and we all volunteer as judges for their tournaments. We also provide training to students competing in faculty-based debate competitions, such as JDCC (Commerce) and CEC (Engineering).”
The society also aims to build on its national success. In the past two years, Dalhousie has been one of four universities to advance teams to the elimination rounds of the National Championships. This year’s nationals will be held at UBC March 15-17 and Sodales will be there in fighting form.
Interested in finding out more about Sodales? The society meets on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 6 p.m. in LSC 234. It also holds a drop-in training session on Tuesdays at 5 p.m. in SUB 318. For more information, visit the Sodales website.
Update March 19: Sodales continued its success this past weekend at the CUSID National Championships. The team of Brendan Martin and Sean McGarry made it all the way to the final round, finishing in second place. As well, Sodales was awarded the bid for the 2014 National Championships, which will bring the tournament to Dalhousie next year.