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UGA's Warnock wins Inaugural Regents Cup Debate

Alan Flurry

Franklin College undergraduate student Ansley Warnock ('25) was the individual debate champion at the the University System of Georgia’s (USG) Regents Cup Debate Series. The Valdosta State University (VSU) debate team won the tournament over competitors from Georgia Tech, Georgia College, UGA and the University of North Georgia.

In all, nine students from six USG institutions participated in the event, hosted on Middle Georgia State University’s Macon campus. Intended to highlight how USG students can communicate and articulate from different perspectives in a persuasive, respectful way, the students competed in four rounds of debate, followed by semi-final and final rounds, using the International Public Debate Association structure.

The students were presented with topics before each round and given 30 minutes to prepare initial arguments. The format encourages debaters to “think on their feet” and develop strong refutation skills. Debate topics included global economic development, agricultural subsidies and the impact of artificial intelligence. The final round saw a debate over prioritization of ocean exploration over space exploration.

"I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to have represented the University of Georgia and the Georgia Debate Union in the USG’s Regent’s Cup," said Warnock, an anthropology major from Richmond Hill, GA. "The competition itself was a lot of fun, and the tournament exemplified my favorite part of this activity: competitively exchanging ideas all day with strangers and then leaving at the end as friends. That bond that comes from a joint pursuit of the truth is what debate is all about."

"This event is evidence that Chancellor Perdue, the Board of Regents, and the University System of Georgia are committed to supporting debate and dialogue throughout Georgia," said Bjørn Stillion Southard, associate professor and Director of Debate in the department of Communication Studies. "We were excited when we received the invitation to participate. The Regents' Cup will be an annual event and we hope that UGA winning the competition can also become a yearly tradition."

Topics included U.S. corn subsidies, regulation of social media platforms, and required cognitive tests for presidential candidates. Students are assigned to be on the affirmative or negative side before the debate. The two debaters in each round were given a list of five topics, with each debater getting to strike two topics. The remaining topic is the topic for the round. Students then have 30 minutes to prepare their arguments. The next round had a list of five new topics and the process started over. There were four preliminary rounds, a semi-final, and a final. Warnock defeated Georgia Tech in the semifinal debate on the topic of the value of STEM education. The topic for the final round between UGA and Valdosta State was 'We should prioritize ocean exploration over space exploration.' UGA was on the negative side and won a majority of the votes from the seven-person judging panel.

"Winning was great. More important was the event and being together with a mix of students, coaches, Regents, government officials, and journalists. It was a diverse audience of people that care about civil discourse. I hope we get even more folks involved next year," Stillion Southard said.

Image: Photo of Ansley Warnock being congratulated by former Georgia Governor, Nathan Deal

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