UO debaters recognized for winning two national titles

Matt Gander and Hank Fields are the latest in a long line of University of Oregon debaters to distinguish themselves on a national stage.

On Friday, the seniors were recognized at a reception Friday at the Clark Honors College for winning two national championships in debate this sprMatt Gandering.

The Oregon debaters won the championship of the National Parliamentary Tournament of Excellence at the University of Denver, an invitational competition, beating out 63 other teams. Then they won the National Parliamentary Debate Association national championship tournament, an open competition that attracted teams from more than 150 schools to Colorado College.

Debaters need to have broad knowledge of global affairs, politics and philosophy, and be able to think on their feet.

Fields, a graduate of Marshfield High School in Coos Bay, and Gander, who graduated from Sprague High School near Salem, competed against each other as high school debaters. They teamed up last year as juniors at the UO, and found their respective intellectual strengths worked well together in competition.

Hank Fields

“We know so many complementary things,” Fields said.

Fields is a senior in the Clark Honors College majoring in political science. Gander is a senior majoring in history and political science. Neither has made firm plans for life after graduation, though both are considering graduate school and both are interested in coaching debate.

Debate “is the most comprehensive educational experience you can get,” Fields said.
“In debate it’s fun, because you can push yourself as far as you want to go,” Fields said. “I’ve learned about things that I would never have learned about — even in college.”

The UO Forensics Program, founded in 1876, is “a really cool intellectual community,” he said. “It’s been really cool representing the University of Oregon.”

Fields and Gander are following in a tradition of strong performances in recent years by Oregon debaters. Teams from the UO won national championships in 2001 and 2009.