My time debating in Oxford
Posted Dec. 7. 2007

Jordan Litke
Staff Writer

For several years now the top two teams on ULV’s varsity debate team have been attending the Oxford IV in Oxford, England.
My debate partner Thomas Allison and I represented LaVerne B at the Oxford IV debate competition.

Rob Ruiz and Josh Martin represented La Verne A.

Before I went I knew I was going to one of the most competitive and prestigious debate competitions in the world, but what I encountered when I got there was much greater than my expectations.

Oxford IV is run by the Oxford Union, the world’s most prestigious debate society, founded in 1823.

I must admit I thought the Oxford Union was a location that you could tell a taxi driver to drop you off at.

Well there technically is a location. Its a whole area of the school that belongs to the union with a bar for the exclusive use of union members only. Something very exciting for a dry campus girl like myself.

The competition attracts the highest ranked debaters of schools like Cambridge, Harvard, Yale and various neighboring European countries.
Diverse accents were all over, most European and a few very distinct American accents.

Our goal was initially to not get any fourth places in the competition, but as the rounds progressed we aimed higher to build our points and at least finish with eight points.

That may seem like a low goal, but it only takes 10 points to qualify for the quarter-finals making you one of the top 16 teams.

They don’t reveal your ranking in the last two preliminary rounds of the tournament, so everyone is left in the lurch, hoping they performed well enough in the end to qualify for the last three rounds.

Of course Thomas and I did not qualify for the quarter-finals but guess what we did get. Nine points, that’s right, only one point away from breaking into those top rounds.

Only one point of improvement needed to be considered one of the best at one of the world’s most distinguished debate competitions.

As for La Verne A, they did not break into quarter-finals either, but they did end the competition with 10 points.

Although they obtained enough points according to the speaker scores, other teams qualified above them, and there is only room for 16 teams.

It was actually really sad to see Rob and Josh not break, especially since they more than deserved it, and it was their last year eligible to debate.
They still have Worlds to redeem themselves though, and I truly hope they do it.

Our coach, Ian Lising was proud of us. I was proud of us.

He kept asking us “are you having fun?” like that was the soul purpose of us being in Oxford.

He never wants us to feel stressed about competition and he will always accept our best as better than winning.

Cambridge A won the whole thing, and I got to see what really good debaters look like.

These are the people I should aim to have similar point values with when we attend the World’s Debate Competition in Bangkok, Thailand next month.

Everything was so “British” in Oxford.

The buildings were old, the roads were narrow and bars closed down early.

We stayed in a little bed and breakfast directly across the street from the union, owned by a screeching British woman.

It all seriously looked and felt like I had walked onto a movie set, and everyone was in character, thick British accent and all.

Although Americans and British both speak English, England is by all means a foreign land.

I thought England would be different, maybe because I always considered them to be sort of like a distant cousin to the United States, but it surpassed all of my expectations.

By the end of my trip, England turned into a family friend that you can only take in portions.

After the competition our little group of Americans hit the streets of London.

Bustling London reminded me of New York City.

Piccadilly Circus was Times Square, the Underground is just a fancy name for a subway station, and as long as a car was at least a few feet away, people were jay-walking across the streets.

I truly enjoyed my time in England, but let’s be honest, it’s not home.
People staring at me because of my accent got old, praying for a seat in the Underground was annoying and worrying about the exchange rate was dreadful.

I hope to get the opportunity to travel to Oxford and London again, but I know for sure I’m going to need a fiercer edge on the competition, and a whole lot more money.

Jordan Litke can be reached at

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