Fostering a debate culture in Education City
November 23, 2016
Debate opportunities for students in Education City are few and far between, but students are combatting this by forming clubs with passionate and committed debaters.
The Qatar University Debate League is the only local tournament opportunity for students in EC to participate in debates. All EC universities except for Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar are currently participating in the 2016 league, according to Zain Najam Minhas, a communication senior at Northwestern University in Qatar and president of the university’s debate club.
“It’s the only event we look forward to as debate clubs,” said Sara Elamin, president of Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar’s debate club.
NU-Q’s debate club currently has nine members. According to Minhas, the low student involvement is because debating requires a lot of commitment. “I decided to take over the club because I really wanted NU-Q’s presence in the debating circuit in Doha, because I heard from people in Qatar Debate that NU-Q has no representation at tournaments,” Minhas added.
Sana Hussain, a freshman at NU-Q, recently joined the debate club to continue her love of debating, which she cultivated during her high school years. Debating is a skill that fosters critical thinking and argumentation that any student should have, said Hussain.
The QUDL is organized by QatarDebate Center, the national debating organization for Qatar, and is held four times during the academic year, with two events in the fall semester and two in the spring semester. The Nationals Championship concludes the league, and a champion university is declared. A version of QUDL is also held in Arabic.
Established in 2008, QatarDebate Center offers workshops in public speaking, argumentation, research and motion analysis. “We just sent them an email and they came here and arranged a workshop, and people were really happy with it,” Minhas said.
Muhammad Zain Raza, a senior at Texas A&M University at Qatar and president of its wildly successful debate club, hopes to take his team beyond the opportunities offered in Doha. The TAMUQ debate club, known as the Council of Debating Engineers, has won the national championships in 2015, with Raza winning the best speaker award in 2015 and 2016. “We want to expand our achievements in more competitive places and on a world stage,” Raza said.
Both Minhas and Elamin commended the work QD is doing to foster a debate culture in EC. Minhas mentioned how supportive and considerate the organization has been with the small and new debate club he leads. However, there is still work to be done.
“QatarDebate is doing a great job as an organization to try and up the debating spirit in Qatar in general, but I feel like more could be done,” Elamin said. Raza echoed Elamin’s words, adding that QD should be a pioneer in developing and expanding opportunities not only for EC students but for the region as a whole.
The culture of debate is already a deeply ingrained part of the region, according to Hanad Sahardeed, the English program coordinator at QatarDebate. Sahardeed added that QD offers a number of exciting debate opportunities for EC students. From QUDLs and workshops to attending public debates and judging at school leagues, there are many opportunities available for EC students to get involved in debate. However, something they struggle with is getting students to take part in activities beyond the league tournaments, according to Sahardeed.
QD has been actively trying to spread debating to all institutions in EC by assisting newer clubs in recruitment and running workshops. Their focus is to ensure the debate community stays strong and grows. “A core part of our goal is to create spaces on campus that allow EC Students to express themselves and engage critically with the issues of the day,” Sahardeed said.
A problem the presidents face is the lack of competitive debate events in Doha besides the QUDLs. GU-Q hopes to someday return to the World Universities Debating Championships as they did in 2012 and 2013. NU-Q’s debate team has been given permission to look at regional tournaments as they are still a growing team. However, both teams complained about the hardship of getting approval for such events from universities due to budgeting issues.
TAMUQ’s debate club is planning to go to the WUDCs in Amsterdam this December. Raza mentioned that it was a struggle getting funding to send a few team members to go on the international trip due to the university’s limited budget.
Minhas, Elamin and Raza hope to improve their debaters’ skills, as well as spread their love of debating to a greater audience in EC. “Everyone should try debating at least once, no matter how good of a speaker you think you are,” Elamin said. “Debating can always improve you.”