About

What We Do

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We have something for everyone – whether you’re a beginner debater, a competitive debater, or simply wanting to make some friends and find out more about the world. We meet every Thursday night at 6pm at Law School.  You can participate in our internal debating tournament, watch some of our finest debaters in action, learn how to judge debates, or brush up on your debating skills by attending our coaching sessions. We also run seminars before the Law 121 test and exam and the Law 131 and Law 141 exams.

Debsoc is also a very social club! We regularly host events such as the Pub Quiz and Comedy Backwards Debate, as well as our Opening Night Party and of course, Thropy (the weekend long debating tournament/party).

And our members are always up for a chat about  anything and everything. We also have a great profile on campus, with a column in Craccum every week as well as a host of different public debates.  Past celebrity participants include MP Shane Jones and retired Supreme Court Judge Sir Edmund ‘Ted’ Thomas. But first and foremost, we’re a debating club.  

 

We send speakers to a huge number of tournaments, both amateur and competitive, throughout New Zealand and the rest of the world.  We are always competitive domestically, and are forging an ever stronger presence on the international stage as well.

Executive

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Chenchen Huang

President

Chenchen is a fourth-year year Arts and Science student, majoring in economics, physics, and mathematics. He's been extensively involved in University Debating admin, entering his third year on the executive committees of the Debating Society and Auckland Schools Debating. He's also a prominent speaker on the circuit, reaching the finals series of both the New Zealand British Parliamentary Debating Championship and Aotearoa Open. Outside of debating he enjoys reading, chess, and working on cars. 

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Aisha O'Malley

Vice President

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Liam Silverwood

Treasurer

Liam is a third year Engineering student, specialising in Engineering Science. He started debating in year 10, and twice represented Hawke's Bay at the National School Debating Championships. At university, Liam has debated or judged at Joynt Scroll, Officer's Cup, Australs, Auckland IV, NZBP, the NZ sports motion tournament, and Thropy (in which he debated as a finalist). This is Liam's first year on the exec, but he has also served on the Auckland School's Debating committee so is no stranger to debating related admin. Liam is looking forward to helping the Auckland squad flourish at outside tournaments in 2020.

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Grace Baylis

Women's & Minorities Officer

Grace is a second year Laws and Arts student, majoring in Māori Studies, who never meant to let her debating habit get this out of hand. Grace won Schools’ Nationals and attended World Schools, but swore she’d quit after high school. Instead, she has since won NZ Wom*ns, Thropy and Horton’s Cup. She has also broken at Australs. This year, Grace hopes to diversify Debsoc and empower women and minorities in debating. Grace can be confidentially contacted regarding any equity matters at equity.debsoc@gmail.com. You can also view the Club's equity policy here.

 

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Harper Smith

Development Officer

Harper is a second year student studying a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery. Harper started debating in high school and was on the Waikato and NZ Schools teams. As a first year, Harper won thropy, broke at Aotearoa Open, and judged the Australs Open Grand Final and the World Schools Octofinal. Outside of debating, Harper enjoys sleeping an excessive amount, taking naps and resting her eyelids.

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Joshua is a second year Engineering student specialising in Engineering Science because he didn’t want to specialise and it “seemed like the least specialised option”. During his 3 years of Advanced Prem schools debating he earned the commendable achievement of missing out on breaking by 1 win or speaks in 7 tournaments in a row, finally getting his first (and only) schools break at NZSSBP 2018. At University Joshua made Thropy finals, as well as debating at Joynt and Officers. Outside of debating Joshua is a Youth Leader and National Treasurer for his youth group Bnei Akiva, and in his (very limited) free time he enjoys writing and swimming.

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Stephanie Werner

Internal Officer

Stephanie is a third year bachelor of science student majoring in Biology and Physiology (and won’t shut up about it). Her debating career started in high school with a break in Senior open at ASD. She also made it to the finals for NZ Wom*ns 2020, won Auckland Rumble 2020, and broke at Aotearoa Open 2020. In her free time she enjoys doing various arts and crafts and occasionally stand up paddleboarding with her grandmother.

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Harry is a second-year Law and Science student majoring in Biology (No he doesn’t want to do environmental law, please stop asking). He started debating in high school. Since attending university, he has made it to the finals of Thropy, Horton’s cup, and the Log o’ Johnston as well as breaking at Auckland rumble. Outside of debating, he continues his degree’s vibe of being unable to pick a side through his continued involvement with UNyouth. Outside of hobbies related to arguing, he spends his time trying to bake sourdough and, when the weather allows,  skiing.

Joshua Sampson

Internal Officer

Aisha is a third-year student studying Commerce and Global Studies, majoring in Finance, Economics and International Relations and International Business. Aisha debated regionally in Christchurch during high school and was reserve to the regional team before expanding her horizons and moving to big city Auckland. Her university debating career has consisted of winning Thropy (kind of), being a quarter-finalist of AWDC, and a semi-finalist of Aotearoa Open. More importantly, debating has meant making a great group of friends. Aisha is a friendly individual willing to chat with anyone about anything on her quest to make more friends in 2021, so feel free to seek her out at club nights! When not debating or studying, Aisha likes to grab brunch on her quest to find Auckland’s best coffee, or road trip around NZ.

Harry Aickin

External Officer

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Phia is a second year Commerce and Global Studies student majoring in Commercial Law, Information Systems, and International Business and Relations. She got dragged into debating in year 9 by a classmate and has since never parted ways from debating. In university, Phia won the Novice Tournament in 2020 and prides herself in mustering up the courage to attend Thropy despite the long break from debating. Phia loves to bake in her spare time and rewrite her notes ~aesthetically~ so she can post about it on her studygram.

Phia Meilee Nem

First Year Representative

History

The University of Auckland Debating Society was originally established in 1887 as the Auckland University College Debating Society. It held its first debate on July 29, 1887, chaired by Sir Maurice O’Rorke, with the topic, “the payment of members of the House of Representatives is for the best interests of New Zealand“.

We’ve listed topics debated in our early years below.  Some of these topics show that we tackled serious issues from our inception.  Topics such as “Is the influence of the State for good or evil” remain as relevant today as they were over a century ago.

  • “Should suffrage be extended to women?” (10 May, 1891)

  • “Are the present encroachments of women justifiable?” (May, 1898)

  • “That the advantages of the unrestricted freedom of the Press outweigh the disadvantages,” (6 July, 1888)

  • “Is any further limitation on the liberty of the Press desirable?” (13 May, 1890)

  • “The Chinese invasion of Auckland” (22 May, 1889)

  • “Is the influence of the State for good or evil?”

  • “Does Education add to human happiness?” (19 August, 1891).

  • “That the power of the British nation has culminated and is now declining.” (28 May, 1903)

  • “Should New Zealand join the Australian Federation League?” (8 July, 1891).

 

Other topics reflect the social prejudices evident at the time:

  • “That the Maori race is doomed to destruction” (proposed 2 April, 1900).

  • “That Chinese should be excluded from the colony” (27 April, 1888)

 

Clearly humour was relevant in Auckland debating over a century ago, as it remains today. Less serious topics have included:

  • “Is the North Pole worth finding?” (9 December, 1897)

  • “That the custom of afternoon tea is pernicious,” (proposed 14 April, 1902)

  • “Is life worth living?” (proposed 8 January, 1903)

 

Today we are New Zealand's largest and most successful debating society. In 2016 we have over 700 members.  We were only 1 or 3 universities to break 2 teams at Worlds in 2015, we won Joynt Scroll and Thropy in 2015 and we were in the final of Easters and Australs in 2015. In 2016 Auckland 1 (James Penn and James Rankin) won Easters (the New Zealand Impromptu Debating Championships) and were in the final of Thropy. Auckland is one of the top ten debating universities in the world alongside the likes of Cambridge, Harvard, and Oxford and is also New Zealand's only A tier world ranked university.

Patron

The Right Honourable Jonathan Hunt, ONZ has been the Debating Society’s patron since 2009.

Jonathan is an alumni of our university and was an active member in the Debating Society during his years as a student. Our minute books make frequent reference to his attendance, including his selection onto a Joynt Scroll team.

Known as ‘father of the House’, Jonathan was the longest-serving Member of Parliament until he resigned in March 2005 to take up positions as New Zealand High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, and Ambassador to Ireland.

During his time in Parliament, Jonathan served as Whip, Deputy Speaker and was a Minister in the Fourth Labour Government. Jonathan also instigated of the Adult Adoption Information Act of 1985. He was unanimously elected Speaker in December 1999, and returned to the position in 2002.

Jonathan was appointed to the Order of New Zealand for services to Parliament in the New Year Honours List 2005. He then received a Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Auckland in 2006.

We are very excited to have Jonathan as our patron.

Sponsors

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