HPU’s Student Speaker Bureau competes in Oxford, England

BROWNWOOD – December 14, 2018 – Members of the Student Speaker Bureau, Howard Payne University’s competitive speech and debate team, recently traveled to Oxford, England, to compete in the Oxford Inter-Varsity Debating Tournament, one of the largest British Parliamentary debate tournaments in the world.

Lucy Manning, sophomore communication, social science jurisprudence and Guy D. Newman Honors Academy major from Fort Worth, competed in the tournament with two separate debate partners, both from Oxford University. Freshman Alek Mendoza, communication and theatre major from Bangs, served as an adjudicator at the tournament. Also on the trip were Dr. Julie Welker, chair of HPU’s Department of Communication and Student Speaker Bureau coach, and Richelle Hair, instructor of communication.

The British parliamentary style of debate at the tournament consists of four teams of two. The teams are presented with a resolution and then given 15 minutes to prepare for the debate. Debaters may not consult the Internet or coaches but may have some printed material available. Contestants are expected to have a broad, working knowledge of world events and issues. Some of the topics debated at this tournament included research into the possible genetic origins of sex, race and sexuality; environmental advocacy and legislation; compulsory military service in Israel; South African township development; and U.S. political ties with Saudi Arabia.

“The best thing about going to an international debate tournament was viewing the different debate styles and learning more about other cultures,” said Mendoza. “I had the opportunity to use my Spanish to communicate with two competitors from Spain and discuss many things that differ in our cultures.”

The HPU team watched the grand final round, held in the famous Oxford Union Debating Chamber.

“Oxford was amazing,” said Manning. “We had the challenge of a new debate format and the chance to discuss important topics with people from all over the world. We debated in the chamber where brilliant discussions have occurred for generations. The history of the Oxford Union was fantastic.”

While in Oxford, the team toured the Bodleian Library, one of the oldest libraries in Europe, and the University Church of St. Mary, the official church of University of Oxford. The HPU group also attended Evensong at Christ Church.

“Experiencing the culture of Oxford is such an important part of our trip,” said Dr. Welker. “Besides the debates, we spend time exploring University of Oxford and learning about the oldest university in Europe.”

After competing in Oxford, the group traveled to London for educational sightseeing. The team visited Parliament, attending debates at both the House of Commons and the House of Lords. The group visited Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, the British Library, the British Museum, the National Gallery and other various points of interest.

While in London, the group met with an International Mission Board (IMB) missionary, who is stationed just outside of London. The IMB missionary shared with the group about her work, mission and needs in the greater London area. The group was able to pray with her and share a small gift of financial support.

“I really wanted the team to connect with an American who was doing mission work in the greater London area,” said Dr. Welker. “This was a unique opportunity to combine our academic-based trip with understanding more about sharing the Gospel in European nations.”

The HPU debate team has been traveling to Oxford for the international competition since 2011 and plans to continue the tradition of international debate.