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There was a twenty-minute break between the end of the ESL final and the start of the Open final, and I had an important job to do: I had to keep an eye on Bethany’s phone while it was charging.

I felt myself getting nervous, probably the most nervous I’ve been for a debate I wasn’t participating in.

Two minutes before we had to head in, I saw Bethany coming back over, and felt like I should say something.

“Ready to kick ass?”

“Yeah.”

So she did.

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King and Queen in the North

Glasgow A are your European champions, something I would describe as “unbelievable” were it not so entirely believable – they are that good. The day went something like this.

St Andrews only assembled as the motion for the semi-final being drawn, in various states of tiredness and intoxication. I think that all six of us managed to leave the social at separate times in separate ways, which is rather impressive. Anyway, the semi motion was THR the mass deregulation of the financial sector, the economics motion we had all been waiting for.

Owen and Bethany were in OO, leading them to essentially defend neoliberal economics – certain St Andrews debaters and alumni would have approved – in what was a far fierier debate than we expected. Meanwhile, downstairs at Euros Council, Scotland was having yet another moment of victory, as the Scottish Euros bid for 2018 was ratified, ensuring that we’ll be hosting this whole mad thing next year. Nish, Steph, Olivia and Duncan deserve a huge amount of credit for turning this from casual chat about an idea into a real event that will actually happen. Credit also has to go to the entire team they’ve assembled from all over Europe to make it happen: I’m confident it’ll be the best Euros yet.

Once council and the semi were over, I had just enough time to use the swimming pool (because this Euros is at a hotel with a swimming pool) before getting all dressed up to head to the finals venue. Duncan shamed us all by wearing a full kilt, while Wesley, having been unaware that Euros ended with a black-tie event until two weeks ago, turned up in a jacket and jeans. We were shaming him for his informality until he reminded us that, coming from Texas, this was effectively his national dress.

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this is what peak performance looks like

On the buses into the city, we had our final Wesley of the Day:

Oh my God that is amazing! What a wonderful invention of the human race.” – Wesley, after trying a Fruit Pastille for the first time.

As a bonus, and given it was Finals Day, here’s a Mooney of the Day, which I vaguely remember happening:

I went to try and get food and I came back with a CAship, a partner for an Open, and a beer.” – Mooney, 45 minutes after winning Euros.

Anyway, we were advertised that there were to be “activities” greeting us at the Finals venue, but unsure what those might be. As it turns out, they were a variety of inexplicable and weird things to amuse us, from a man making models of cephalopods on a 3D printer, to a guitar/straight saxophone duo, and most oddly, a woman selling shoes, whose presumable customer demographic was people who showed up at an international debating final having forgotten their shoes.

The auditorium itself was decorated in to be some kind of enchanted debating forest, with fake grass and everything.

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The evening was compered by an Australian stand-up comedian, and if you want to find out what that was like, I would ask the next Euros attendee you see in person to tell you about it – in a sense, you really had to be there.

What I will say here is that any of us who have stood up for a PM speech with only three-and-a-half minutes of material have some approximation of what dying on stage might be like, and a group of impatient debaters who just want to hear a final motion may not be the most receptive crowd. However, if various heckles are funnier than your jokes, perhaps stand-up comedy may not be your calling in life.

Eventually, both finals were held, on the following motions:

ESL Final: THB that Western European states at high risk for terror attacks should implement ‘state of emergency’ laws.

Open Final: TH as the Kremlin would commemorate the 1917 Russian Revolution as a tragedy rather than a triumph for the nation.

Both finals were magnificent, with all teams putting on performances worthy of the occasion not only in terms of persuasiveness, but in rhetoric, oratory, and even humour. They were two of the most entertaining finals I’ve watched, and all speakers should be commended.

The CA team should be commended too, not just for those motions, but for every motion that was set. It is easy to underestimate how hard it must be to set motions that are original, well-balanced, accessible and equitable, but all of the ones I judges and watched fulfilled that criteria. More than that, though, the issues we discussed often felt important; it is easy to joke about the general importance of debating, but getting hundreds of European students together and forcing them to discover the most contentious issues in the world from multiple perspectives can only be a good thing, especially in the times that we live in.

The team who were putting together the Moscow Open, at the end of their tournament announcement, said that they were especially grateful to be free to host a debating tournament, and that they would endeavour to prevent it ever being shut down. Estonia, which freed itself from Soviet rule without a shot being fired, knows that all to well – it is incumbent upon us to remember it.

Congratulations are due to the OrgComm for putting together an extremely well-run tournament, with everything running to time, all venues from venues to socials being more than up to standard, and all volunteers being friendly, helpful, and at times worryingly efficient. They have given us a lot to live up to.

I am a tiny part of the European debating ecosystem – coming to these tournaments tends to remind you of just how big this curious pastime can be – and yet it is easy to feel like European debating has never been stronger. The ESL final, which featured four teams from four different countries, as well as, in Tel Aviv B, a team that spoke in the Open Final as well, was testament to this, as was the achievement of Floris Holstege, who not only topped the ESL speaker tab, but finished 9th on the overall speaker tab, an amazing achievement. (Although, as a former CA of the St Andrews Open, I suppose he was always destined for great things.)

There is still work that needs to be done, of course, as the CA team reminded us in their thank you speeches: from improving representation of women and gender minorities, improving access for students with disabilities, and improving access to training and competitions from students from under-represent institutions, circuits, and regions. However, I do not doubt the energy, passion and drive of this entire community to try and come up with solutions to those problems, nor the ability of us to change attitudes, listen to those affected and come up with effective solutions.

I am also proud of the work that has been done within Scotland on all of these issues – as Nish reminded me when we were taking contingent photos, it is far from an accident that the photos of men and women of the Scottish contingent were nearly the same size – and the energy and interest displayed at our caucus suggests we are more than up to the task.

Because this group of people is a community, in a way that is hard to describe to outsiders. It struck me, when we were introducing ourselves while celebrating, that we were describing ourselves not just as merely representing our institutions, but as “from Strathclyde”, “from Aberdeen” or “from St. Andrews”.  The SSDC makes us all us feel Scottish – it gives us somewhere that we belong, and can carry with us wherever debating takes us.

Owen and Bethany represent the best of that. I can say without hesitation that speaking against them, judging with them, and occasionally getting to judge them has made me a far better debater, and counting them as friends has been a pleasure. Their generosity to spare time training and supporting other debaters, whether through giving judge feedback at competitions or even just asking how their rooms have been, has been a credit to them. Their individual and collective brilliance has been apparent to anyone who has met or debated against them over the years, and they are worthy champions. We have been lucky to have them.

I have felt slightly odd throughout this Euros, knowing that it is certainly the last event that I will represent the University of St Andrews at, and quite possibly the last major debating competition I take part in as a participant. Yet the relative youth of our contingent was an encouragement: In Sam, Ruth, Duncan, Wesley and Kimon, not to mention everyone who couldn’t be here, the UDS has a very bright future.

I am so grateful to this hobby and all it’s given me: I’ve been to more than twenty competitions in five countries, made dozens of friends and spoken on hundreds of motions. The UDS has taken me to places I thought I never could or would reach, and taught me things that I will carry with me for the years to come. I will always be a St Andrews debater, and will always cherish the spectacular memories it has given to me. To paraphrase the last ten seconds of a speech that ended up winning Euros:

The finest friends, the finest people, the finest times, the finest (and oldest) institution.

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Though I may not be there, you have all of my support in Mexico, Edinburgh, Cape Town, Athens and beyond.

Sincerely,

Richard Hunter (alumnus)

 

 

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After much consideration, I am now in a position to share with you my experiences as a fresher going to his first euros. But first, TALLINN EUDC DAY FIVE.

The day started off with the SSDC gathering in a hotel events room to support GUU A facing off Oxford B, TCD Hist A, and Cambridge B in a highly technical economics motion from OO, THR the mass deregulation of the financial sector. We hadn’t even had breakfast!

Later, we put on our fancy clothes and hopped on the buses to the fancy finals venue, where we waited around for some time, then experienced peak cringe thanks to our Australian stand-up comedian host cracking jokes about Russia, ESL, and the equity policy, and then watched the heated ESL final on state of emergency laws, followed by even more cringe and our –did I mention– Australian host getting heckled by rowdy Irish debaters. Thankfully for GUU A, they didn’t have to endure this, because they were prepping for the open final.

The motion read TH as the Kremlin would commemorate the 1917 Russian Revolution as a tragedy rather than a triumph for the nation, and Bethany and Owen made Scotland proud by winning the final with their amazing speeches. We chanted, cheered, sang Flower of Scotland, and hugged each other as the tournament was coming to a wonderful end for the whole of Scottish debating. The celebrations were held in a terrace at the hotel by the swimming pool.

What I will mostly remember from this experience of spending this week in Tallinn, is how close together the SSDC really is. We’d already seen each other many times in domestic competitions –even I, a timid fresher who doesn’t easily socialise with people he doesn’t know that well– but nothing had brought us together like euros. Walking through the streets of Tallinn, or playing drinking games in a hotel conference room, we bonded, and when people from other SSDC contingents asked me how Wesley and I were doing, I knew I was part of a community, a natural progression from my first debate at Bogwall, where Owen Mooney was chairing. When he and Bethany won, I was elated not just because they’re from a Scottish university, but because they have been part of my whole first year in university debating, and have welcomed me in the SSDC, regardless of my debating abilities or institution.

At this point, I have to give special thanks to Ruth, Duncan, Wesley, Sam, and Richard, for being an inextricable part of my first euros. I hope there are many great things to come in my next three years of debating with the UDS.

 

— athens 2019

That 2am pizza still hasn’t arrived.

Sorry this is late, but (SPOILERS) we were busy celebrating.

Friday started with a headache and an SSDC brunch, which was (accidentally and loudly) proposed by St Andrews at 3am on break night. Most of us came and dissected the events of break night. Apparently, Duncan was there.

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We then headed to support GUU A and Edinburgh A in an intense Scotland vs Ireland quarter final:

This house, as women’s rights groups in India, would adopt violent female goddesses as prominent symbols.

Reasons why this was great:
1. feminism motions
2. theology motions
3. two Scottish teams to cheer for
4. Bethany’s speeches encourage me to live my best life

We had pizza for dinner. It came on time. It did not contain shredded carrot or a dil sauce. That’s all we needed.

We then had a lively pre-social conference with Scotland, where both St Andrews teams drew their partners, proving that debating doesn’t necessarily transfer into other skills. Wesley of the day is just his drawing of Kimon, because with that, we can truly examine how he sees the world.

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The quarters call was announced at the social, and St Andrews are immensely proud of GUU A who got through, and we hope (know) they’ll go on to smash semis like they’ve smashed the rest of this competition.

We are also so proud of Edinburgh A who did amazingly well all week, breaking 4th to quarters and consistently inspiring the younger SSDC debaters. I owe Nish a Birmingham snobs night out, all are welcome to join.

BRING ON THE SEMIS!

Song Of The Day:

 

 

the female fresher™

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Thus far, you have received a Wesley of the Day; now, I shall bestow upon you a day of Wesley. Prepare yourself appropriately.

 

The day began when I headed to the hotel’s crowded breakfast. Finding a table near my Scottish compatriots, I rested my OJ at a chair and went to get vegetarian quiche, but upon returning I witnessed the legendary blotted jacket of Owen Mooney hanging over my chair. I promptly relocated myself. The hotel’s brilliant and the tournament transportation’s effective, but we’ll get back to that.

 

For ~40% of teams, the last day of in-rounds before the break’s the most stressful. For those without a shot, it’s the least. It doesn’t help that revealing the results of closed rounds is “an offense on par with Game of Thrones spoilers.”  I, for one, was flying.

 

We won’t know our day 3 results until the tab’s published, but I’ll record the motions and our thoughts:

 

R7: THBT Western institutions should neither cooperate with, nor use the data produced by, non-Western medical institutions that do not meet western standards on human clinical trials.

R8: THBT LGBT groups should actively seek to include Side B Christians.

R9: THS the creation and use of lethal autonomous robots (fully autonomous military weapons that can select and engage targets without human intervention).

 

Kimon and I began with a complex ethics case from OG at 9 in the morning, a situation I find ethically indefensible. Of all the in-rounds, my highlight was defending Mosul from the genocidal robocops of round 9. Special thanks to Dan and Gillis, who taught us how to frame that. It’s Duncan’s new favourite motion.

 

Kimon declined to comment.

 

Some time was taken before the last round to advertise for upcoming tournaments. While I generally look forward to most of them, I was particularly delighted by SSDC and NAMDA’s choral rendition of “One Round More,” a masterpiece in its own right.

 

Our buses back were delayed just enough for us to get soaked. It was so bad that I could hear the lightning and see the thunder. The clouds moved away from us, but seemed continually threatening. According to Ruth, “the rain may be leaving, but not the peril.”

 

Trips to showers and shops concluded at the SSDC meeting, which was the most nationalist conference I’ve ever attended. Saltires, toasts, and Nish’s voice made me feel welcome in my new family, but having Sean Cosgrove give me an honorary Scottish citizenship made the night. Coming to Scotland was the best decision of my life; and coming to Estonia’s pretty high up there too.

 

While I defend my break night alcohol consumption as a “phenomenological investigation of the life of the debater,” I cannot speak for the decisions of others. Owen Mooney gave me a piggy-back ride aimed at reaching a pink balloon on the ceiling, or Ruth waiting an hour from 2 AM for a pizza that never arrived. She’s still waiting.

 

No breaks for St Andrews (EDIT: Apart from Duncan and Penny, our spectacular alumni judges!) but a hearty cheer was heard for every Scottish advancement; no one was louder.

 

Ruth’s Day In A Song:

 

 

In some ways the gang has had what can only be described as a relatively uneventful day yesterday. We all attended breakfast on time, all made it to the venue on time and round one started close enough to its scheduled start time. I guess that means that this post will have to be filled with the little weird things that make the St Andrews 2017 EUDC continent the cutest contingent yet!

First of all there was the wasp on Sam and Ruth’s bus to the venue bus this morning. Whilst Ruth seemed to be hiding her nerves well up until this point, the wasp unleashed panic. Ruth described the experience as “a solid 52” and “more terrifying than meeting Oxford A.”

Secondly, Wesley continues to bring joy to all by seemingly being able to make friends with anyone. Highlights that failed to take the coveted Wesley of the day spot include him dancing to just about every song possible during the draw and continuing to be “a wholesome meme.”

Finally, whilst St Andrews A headed straight back to the hotel after debating to get some rest and a quick swim, the remainder of the contingent headed out to walk around the city centre. Highlights of this portion of the day include getting what Richard describes as a medieval Greggs in Tallinn old town (basically an elk pastry that ended up looking like a Greggs bake), stumbling across a Scottish themed pub and getting a drink with previous St Andrews grads attending as IAs. This became particularly cute when we realised that thanks to Penny graduating twice, and the presence of both Duncan (Crowe) and Steph we had representatives of the St Andrews graduating classes of 2013 through 2020.

The particulars of the day’s debating are as follows:

Motions:
R4: THBT states should significantly fund female-only tech companies

R5: TH, as Israel, supports the Jewish People’s Intelligence Services Doctrine

R6: THS universities treating students as customers (eg by allocating significant resources to improving students lifestyles, and granting students influence over university decisions and the content and delivery of course curricula)

Teams and Judges:

Runcan (3rd, 1st, 4th) –
Ruth and Duncan have had a solid day, taking an impressive 1st and an unfortunate 4th. Ruth describes the day as “messy in all the right ways, depending on how you define messy and how you define right.” Read into that what you will. Duncan said not to talk to him about university feedback policy.

Wesmon (4th, 4th, 1st) –
After a rocky start this morning, Wesley and Kimon have continued to keep spirits high and ended on a well deserved first. We are sure they will continue to do well tomorrow! Wesley described the day as “nuanced in its perplexing complexity.” Kimon declined to comment.

Richard has continued to judge some good rooms, but ultimately is sad that the tournament is running to time as this means he can’t play football manager between rounds. It should also probably be noted that today he decided to argue with a chair against another wing, instead of just arguing against the chair.

Sam has also continued to judge some good rooms and is appreciating not only the tournament running to time, but also the remarkably clear signs that lead to the debate rooms in the university and the beauty that is Estonian Uber.

The Day In a Song, According To Ruth:

In reference to Runcan’s final round

The Wesley of the Day:
“I took a wrong turn and ended in fairy land, there is a castle.”

Tonight is break night so the blog might be slightly delayed. Until then, we will leave you with this exceedingly cute contingent photo, just in case you still aren’t convinced we are the cutest contingent yet.

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Kind Regards,
Samantha Baker
Adjudicator, University of Belgrade

tallinnWhile sitting in the back two rows of the announcement hall waiting for briefings to start – yes, St Andrews, along with the rest of the SSDC, are the cool kids – Penny, who has far more experience of these things than me, said that the quality of the blog increases whenever something goes disastrously wrong, so I suppose I should be hoping that I don’t have anything to write about at all. In a somewhat related note, all of us managed to get to Tallinn with our luggage and none of us ended up going to the hospital to get stitches, which shouldn’t be as remarkable an achievement as it seems.

The hotel is on the beach, which is pleasant, and is definitely a piece of Soviet Brutalist architecture, which I suppose will grow on us. It also contains a few things which seem innocuous but will nevertheless probably act as traps for debaters in their weaker moments, ranging from a kids soft-play area (probably) to an expensive minibar (almost certainly) and even a casino (there will be at least one person).

The OrgComm have provided us with excellent food and facilities, and have taken to shouting at us through megaphones whenever they need to get anywhere or do anything, a tactic that, while startling at first, is proving reasonably effective at getting us to stop adopting the standard debating habit of wandering around like a herd of cats. The volunteers, especially, are almost excessively efficient, providing full table service at mealtimes at astonishing speed. We have taken to reminding the freshers that it really isn’t always like this.

Eventually some debating happened, and it went like this.

Motions:

R1: THBT the United States should ban extremist groups (e.g. the KKK, Nazi groups)

R2: THBT the WTO should allow developing countries to impose policies aimed at protecting domestic industries, even at the expense of harming international trade.

R3: THR the rise of ‘Sharing Culture’. (‘Sharing Culture is a culture which encourages the frequent posting of both mundane and intimate details of one’s life on social media platforms, and the commenting and liking of others’ activities)

Teams:

Runcan (1st, 2nd, 3rd)

Ruth had taken to referring to the partnership as “St Andrews A for effort”, a self-deprecating nickname that stopped being applicable round about the time they took a first ahead of a Cambridge team in Round One. Duncan referred to the day simply as “uncomparative”, but ending on straights seems to be the cause for quiet optimism.

Wesmon (3rd, 2nd, 3rd)

Wesley has seemingly been on some kind of personal quest for improvement at debating, leading to him starting a sentence with “So, at Botswana Worlds…” as if that is an entirely normal in conversation and receiving judge feedback on Round One for the entire lunch break. Regardless, Wesley described his day as “banterific.”

Kimon declined to comment.

On the judging front, Sam is modestly proud of going through an entire day without relentlessly splitting with chairs or rolling a Chief Adjudicator, putting her solidly above average on the traditional St Andrews judging scale.

Richard has found the Estonian equivalent of Tennent’s, but found out Estonian TV isn’t showing the Liverpool match. He was sad.

The Day In A Song, According To Ruth

The final recurring feature of the blog will be what I’m going to call the “Wesley Of The Day”, where I can record for posterity a moment, story or quote that Wesley has done or said that has been particularly Wesleyish, hopefully leading to us developing a collection of the most Wesley things that have ever been Wesleyed. Anyway, here is your first instalment:

Is there a version of Tinder just for debaters? Because if so let me know.”

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— fringe guy

Tallinn EUDC 2017

Hello! As we wait at the dawn of another year’s European Universities Debating Championships, we’re excited to maintain that peculiarly St Andrean tradition of documenting our adventures here on this blog. Before any of that, though, we can introduce our contingent:

St Andrews A – Ruth Batten and Duncan Bowyer (or, as they shall now be known, “Runcan”)

St Andrews B – Wesley Garner and Kimon Sourlas-Kotzaminis (henceforth “Wesmon”)

Judges – Sam Baker and Richard Hunter

We also have a variety of brilliant alumni who will be serving as Independent Adjudicators, who we will happily claim when they all break as judges.

See you in Estonia!

 

— fringe guy