Scott Harris
KU Debate and Department of Communication Studies

Team qualifies for National Debate Tournament

Tue, 02/18/2014

LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas debate team of senior Melanie Campbell, Lenexa, and freshman Kevin Christopher Birzer, Leawood, has been recognized as a first-round, at-large qualifier for the National Debate Tournament, which will be March 28-31 at Indiana University.

A national committee selects the top-16 individual debate teams in the country based on their performance over the course of the season and recognizes them as automatic first-round qualifiers for the NDT. The rest of the 78-team field will be selected through regional qualifying tournaments over the next two weeks. It is the 47th consecutive year that KU has qualified for the tournament. They are the 35th KU team to qualify for the NDT as a first-round qualifier.

Campbell and Birzer were recognized based on their performance throughout the regular season. They took second place at a tournament hosted by the University of Missouri-Kansas City, fifth place at the University of Southern California and had top-10 finishes at Harvard University, Georgia State University and the University of California at Fullerton. The other schools to qualify as at-large teams are the University of California at Berkeley, Georgetown University, Harvard University, Mary Washington University, the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Northwestern University, the University of Oklahoma, Rutgers-Newark University, Towson University, Wake Forest University and West Georgia University.

Campbell is a four-time qualifier for the NDT. Birzer is the first-ever KU freshman to be a first-round qualifier.

“We are very proud of the hard work and performance of Melanie and Kevin, but we want to acknowledge the support of many others who have contributed to their success,” said Coach Scott Harris. “The other 23 members of the KU debate squad and the assistant coaches have been instrumental. The financial support of the Student Senate, the Communication Studies Department, the College of Arts and Sciences, the Provost and numerous alumni allow them to travel across the country. We also owe Coach Bill Self thanks as well. He provided an assist in helping recruit Birzer as part of his commitment to the University beyond basketball. We are very grateful that he took time out of his busy schedule to help the debate team.”

It has also been a successful season for other members of the debate team as well. The KU debate squad as a whole ended the fall semester ranked second in the country behind the University of Oklahoma in the National Debate Tournament Varsity National Rankings. The rankings are based on points earned by teams competing at tournaments. Twenty-three different KU debaters have reached the elimination rounds at tournaments this year. This past weekend sophomore Kaeli Wefald, Manhattan, and senior Megan Mapes, Topeka, went 7-1 and took third place at a tournament at Kansas State University. Sophomore Addison Schile, Topeka, and junior Nick Khatri, Edina, Minn., took second place at a tournament at the University of Texas at Dallas and third place at a tournament at Wichita State University. Juniors Matt Bevens, Topeka, and Aaron Miller and Ciera Foreman, both of Overland Park; sophomores Hunter Goh, Bakersfield, Calif., and Bradley Harris, Lawrence; and freshmen Keith Monaghan and Jared Nelson, both of Overland Park, have all finished in the top three at varsity tournaments this year. 

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Lauded race and class historian becomes KU Foundation Professor David Roediger’s award-winning research and writing has already transformed how historians view the growth of social freedoms in America though the intersection of race, class, ethnicity, and labor. Now Roediger, as KU’s first Foundation Distinguished Professor of History (, will continue to break new ground in those fields as he leads KU’s departments of American Studies and History. Roediger likes to study historical flash points — where one particular change brings a cascade of wider cultural changes. His latest book, “Seizing Freedom, Slave Emancipation and Liberty for All,” makes the point that as slaves began freeing themselves across the South during the Civil War, their emancipation inspired and ignited other cultural movements for freedom — such as the women’s movement for suffrage and the labor movement for better working conditions and an eight-hour day. Understanding the individual stories of average people who wanted to make their lives better, including slaves or factory workers, is important to understanding the wider political movements and elections, Roediger said. “It's tempting to think that all the important political questions have been decided,” he said, “but actually people are constantly thinking about what freedom would mean for them.”

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