PSS Summer '12

The Great Debate

Will McConnell


Hometown: Cleveland Heights, Ohio

Major: Sociology

Beyond HWS: McConnell will enroll in the Ph.D. program in sociology at Indiana University

  • Minored in Philosophy and French
  • Recipient of the Eric Hall Anderson ’59 Annual Fund Scholarship
  • Sociology Teaching Fellow
  • Hobart Club Rugby Team President
  • Graduated magna cum laude with Honors in Sociology
  • Elected to Phi Beta Kappa


Hometown: Bel Air, Maryland

Majors: Economics and Political Science

Beyond HWS: Klinger will pursue a master’s degree in political science at American University

  • Minored in Comparative Political Economy
  • Graduated magna cum laude
  • Interned at the Partnership for Public Service in Washington, D.C.

Fresh off of their dazzling showing at the Debate World Championships in Manila where they placed 21st in the world, Gerald “Buzz” Klinger ’12 and Will McConnell ’12 have been named the 2012 United States Universities Debate Champions. There were 156 teams from many of the nation’s top schools at the National Championships hosted at Williamette University in Salem, Oregon. Klinger and McConnell bested Yale in the final round to clinch the national title. Last year’s Debate Champions hailed from Harvard.

Following six preliminary rounds, Klinger and McConnell advanced to octo- finals as the eighth seeded team, eventually making their way to the grand final round. Presented with the topic “This house believes that coming cuts in the U.S. military spending will make the world a better place,” Klinger and McConnell were assigned to oppose the motion.

“I watched them advance through their elimination rounds, defeating some of the best teams in the nation, but I was a little worried when I saw that they were up against Yale’s top team – ranked number six in the world – in the final round,” said Debate Team Coach and Assistant Professor of Philosophy Eric Barnes. “To make it worse, the topic seemed slanted against our side, but as the debate progressed I realized that we were winning anyhow; and it wasn’t just me, the whole audience knew it. I am extremely proud of them.”

“When we were debating the Finals motion, it was in front of a crowd of more than 300 people packed into a chapel on Willamette’s campus,” recalls McConnell, who has found his HWS debate tenure an amazing skill and confidence builder. “There was a lot of energy in the room, so I was enjoying the experience even before we found out that we had won.”

For Klinger, the best part of the experience happened after the debate. “After it was announced that we had won and the news traveled across the internet, I received a lot texts from graduated HWS debaters who had either debated with me or helped coach me when I was younger,” explains Klinger. “It’s amazing to see how invested they still are in the program and to have so many people be excited about such a great achievement for the debate team.”

Three teams from the Colleges competed in the annual tournament, with all teams finishing in the top half of the competition. The United States Universities Debate Championships are held each year, bringing together the top teams in the nation to compete in the British Parliamentary style debate, the international standard format also used at the World Championships.


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