The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa debate team showed off its skills at a debate between team members on a proposal to freeze tuition hikes.

The team’s first debate of the 2013–2014 school year was held at the Shidler College of Business.

Here is a sample of the statements made during the event before the dozens of students, faculty and community members who attended.

  • “We stand against any tuition increase, which is going to threaten student access to the university.”
  • “Students wishing to partake in the privilege of higher education, and reap the rewards, must be willing to pay their share in a changing and stimulating society, even if society will not.”
  • “We can continue to be a great school, but we can do it without increasing the burden on the students.”
  • “This plan on freezing tuition is like saying lowering taxes on the wealthiest one percent is going to increase services to the poor. It just doesn’t add up.”

(For the full effect, please watch the accompanying video.)

person speaking in front of a group

The University of Hawaii at Manoa debate team showed off its skills at its first debate of the 2013–2014 school year.

Reestablished in 2008 after decades inactivity, the UH Mānoa debate team has quickly developed into a nationally ranked collegiate program. Because funds are extremely tight, UH only participates in the most prestigious competitions in the world.

“We’ve competed in Botswana, we’ve competed in Istanbul, we’ve competed in Vermont, Oregon, Denver, Washington, California,” said the team’s coach Robert Boller, an assistant professor in the Department of Communicology.

“What we get to show is that the University of Hawaiʻi does have talent and we get to pit that talent against Stanford, Yale, Harvard and whoever else wants to come toe-to-toe,” said debate team member Justin Bongco. “And I think that we do intellectually stand up.”

Supported by UH Mānoa’s Debate and Forensic Society and the Department of Communicology, the debate team is example of the amazing array of opportunities UH offers its students.

“The ability to engage in these debates and kind of fight against like dogma and really expand our ability to argue effectively is one, I think, that’s been beneficial to me,” said debate team member Sterling Higa. “I think that everybody in the organization benefits a lot from what we do.”

“I see them develop at such a rapid rate, intellectually, academically, professionally in their communication skills,” said Boller.

The team, which any UH Mānoa student can tryout for, is also committed to hosting a local intercollegiate league and assisting at speech and debate events for local elementary, middle and high school students.

“When they leave the university, I think they are the types of students we want to represent UH Mānoa,” said Boller.

As for the debate on the tuition freeze bill, the team in favor of the freeze won, but the real winners were those who attended and witnessed a civil, articulate and highly educated discussion on an issue critical to the university.

Higa said it best in his opening statement. “In this time of need, we need more, and not less conversation. We’re very pleased that you have come here to be part of the conversation today.”

Support the UH Mānoa debate team

To learn more, visit the Department of Communicology website. Go online to make a tax deductible contribution to support the debate team.

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