Interview of Divyanshu Bhatt, Co-Convenor of NLU-D’s Debating Society- On Deb-Soc management in law school
RW: Hi Divyanshu! Being a part of one of the countries top DEB-SOCs must entail tremendous expectations. What is it like to manage it?
Divyanshu: I wish to begin by mentioning the fact that I became the Co-Convenor, when Ambar Bhushan became the Convenor of our University’s Deb-soc. It’s hard to live up to a name like that and the others along with him who are graduating this year.
At the outset I would like to mention that the opportunity of this interview which has been given to me has a lot to do with the way this University has grown in terms of its debating culture and the growth which the university has seen in light of it being only 6 years old.
And the credits for this, nothing short of incredulous performance and the beginning of such a culture goes to certain individuals whom I would like to thank on behalf of the current student body, University and Deb-soc in particular: Akshay BD, Ambar Bhushan and Rahul Seth.
These guys have been instrumental in taking the University’s debsoc where it stands today! There are others as well who have given a lot to this University’s debating culture and I would like to thank them as well.
RW: Could you elaborate upon the mandate and the structure of your deb-soc?
Divyanshu: The deb-soc in our University is an administrative body. This means that all the debaters of our college, in a given year, do not form part of the Deb-soc. However, this does not cease them from being an inherent part of the over arching debating community in our University.
This entire community comes together and participates as one single unit for doing anything in the University for the purposes of debating, irrespective of them being a part of the official deb-soc or not. The deb-soc is composed of 2 representative members from each of the 5 batches.
The Convenor is from the 5th year and the Co-convenor from the 4th year. The debating society has the mandate of organizing the Prof. Ghanshyam Singh Memorial Parliamentary Debate of our University.
Apart from that, a major part of our obligation entails coordinating and facilitating the participation of the students in various debate tournaments across the country. Apart from this our mandate also extends to organizing practice sessions and intra college competitions for various first years as well as first time debaters.
RW: What are some of the debate achievements your University is proud of in the previous year?
Divyanshu: In the past year, our University has not just maintained but has also seen a steep rise in the levels of performance, individually as well as teams. It started with winning People’s Speak, then RV, and then came January ’14 when onwards we won pretty much everything. We won MukhMem’14, Premchand’14, NLS’14 and Thadani’14.
These were some of our major wins, while not discounting the others. A total of 8-10 tournaments were won this year by our university, inclusive of those in which our students participated as cross teams. These wins included NUJS’14, FTD’14, BITS’14, Gargi, Manzar etc. The list is long.
RW: How does your university train rookie debaters?
Divyanshu: As soon as the fachchas join the college, they are mostly novice debaters with an experience in MUNs and One-on-one oxford style debating. But they are always enthusiastic. We introduce them to this new style of Parliamentary debating in their 2nd/3rd week through demo debates by seniors. It leads to channelizing their enthusiasm.
Post that, for the next couple of months we hold regular practices almost 4-5 days a week where they are required to debate in the proper format and are under the constant watch of the seniors in college who either team with them in these practice sessions or adjudicate them or both.
Slowly and steadily, these practice sessions go from us feeding them the constructive of any cases to us basically pointing their flaws and they slowly get into the mode.
Within their first 2 months, we also organize the intra college debate tournament especially for all these rookie debaters as well as those who wish to start debating again.
We also send them for the Fresher’s Debates which are organized by various colleges in DU which act as brilliant platforms for these rookie debaters to learn from the good debaters in the circuit who are called as adjudicators and become better at the activity.
During this entire process many students lose interest as they find this job tedious and get filtered out. We respect their choices as well and do not force people. After all it’s in everyone’s best interest to let those students debate who are actually interested in the activity.
We, as an institution believe that the students will be able to develop the capability to debate well if they are interested in the activity. There is no point pushing them. I mean it’s the simple “3 idiots” analogy right. Let the kid do what he wants to do. If he likes it, he’ll be better at it than most!
RW: What role do alumnus play in training debaters?
Divyanshu: So far, only 2 batches have graduated. The Alumni association has just been formalized. Our seniors have always been helpful in whatever way we wanted their help. I am sure the university alumni association also has plans for the deb-soc on their charts and they will lend us a helping hand even before there will be a situation of us asking for it.
But the alumini association has so far kept itself out of the entire functioning of the debating society in the university as they recognize the autonomy of the committee and do not want to interfere as far as the training is concerned.
Our seniors have been such who have learnt everything on their own and have excelled while their contemporaries were fortunate enough to learn from their own seniors.
I personally believe it is for the good as it helps the students realize their potential on their own and when you know you have to do everything on your own, you tend to put in something extra. Furthermore, the students also know that whenever they’ll need help they’ll get it.
RW: Does your university engage special faculty to train rookie debaters?
Divyanshu: No. I mean we do have, Prof. Dr. Maheshwar Singh, faculty advisor to the literary and debating Society of the college.
However, he exists for providing all the administrative help to the students, but there is no faculty engagement or interference in the training of debaters. It is entirely the initiative of the University students.
RW: Could you describe in detail the system your University employs to allot Debates?
Divyanshu: It is very simply “form a team and go!!” model. Most of the debates happen in Delhi. We usually send 2-3 teams on an average to every good tournament in delhi as well as outside. We request for 3-4 slots always and we usually get them.
Then if there are more teams than the number of slots which we have, then we have a challenger within the University, wherein we have an adjudicator panel by consensus of the teams, or from outside. The top teams from the challenger go for the debate.
The reason why we have been able to run with this sort of a model is because the University has given us space to go to such tournaments and grow and has been more than willing in sending the students.
RW: How does your debate allotment system bring the best out of debate teams?
Divyanshu: Debating is a team activity. I agree that individual brilliance plays an important role but so does the composition of the team.
If we look at the best debaters in the past, they always had certain specific team formations. Be it Yaman, Uttara and Ego, Karandeep, Thyaga and Aanchal, Apurv Avram, Jagat and Soutik. And we don’t have to go far. Ambar and Seth, BD and Ambar etc.
When teams are formed on the basis of compatibility, then such team combinations allow the debaters to perform at their optimum. In any team event, the entire team needs to be in sync, have the same wavelength, they need to understand each other for the best possible utilization of the prep time and formulation/switching of strategies during the debate.
These flexibilities are not allowed for in a team formed on the basis of individual good performances and then those individuals being clubbed together. So we encourage the students to figure out the best possible teams for themselves on their own. Even for a rookie team, multiple practice sessions allow for the figuring out of the best possible combination themselves.
RW: How does your debate allotment system bring the best out of adjudicators?
Divyanshu: For adjudicators, the situation is no different. In all the practice sessions, adjudicators are given as much attention as are the debaters.
So once the adjudicators are done giving feedback after every practice debate, the senior debaters /adjudicators in the practice debate give them feedback about their feedback. Plus for both debaters as well adjudicators we follow the policy of “to learn more, debate more”. The more you’ll practice, the better you’ll become.
RW: How does your debate allotment system treat British Parliamentary Debates?
Divyanshu: So far, we hold practices for every kind of debate format and make sure the students participating in the specific event understands the modalities of that specific debating style.
Those students who have already participated in the specific debating style helps in the practice sessions by giving her/his personal inputs. This treatment is given to all debating styles, be it BP, 2-on-2 with interrogation etc. and fortunately, this approach has been working for us so far.
There is no special treatment for any specific style of debating, because barring certain modalities, debates essentially boil down to analysis of the matter. If one is good at that, she/he will be able to cope with/manage the difference in modalities. Our main focus is to make the debaters better at analysis, as modalities can be managed and dealt with later.
RW: How does your university take on parliamentary debates at the international level?
Divyanshu: If this question refers to those tournaments which are outside India Like UADC and stuff, then this was the first year when our University participated in an International Parliamentary Debate in UADC Singapore. Our team came quite close to breaking; However, it was unfortunate that they did not.
But, even then, we as a University need to start preparing a tad more seriously for these international tournaments if we wish to do well in them and this is one of those things which we would be giving more attention to as a Debating Society.
RW: What features are unique to the Debate allotment system of your University?
Divyanshu: Too much flexibility in everything I guess! To be honest, in a University like ours, the credit for the students doing so well is more to those students, their perseverance through the ups and downs, their commitment to the activity, and then may be a little credit to the committee (for ensuring their academic leaves).