Posted on May 16, 2014

Towson University Students Win National Debate Championship

Carrie Wells, Baltimore Sun, March 27, 2014

Two Towson University students edged out 170 other teams to win a national debate championship held in Indiana this week, the second time in recent years a Towson team has netted national debate honors.

Ameena Ruffin and Korey Johnson, both from Baltimore, bested a team from the University of Oklahoma in the final round. Their argument likened police brutality, the prison-industrial complex and structural poverty issues to a warlike violence against African-Americans in the U.S. and identified solutions.

Ruffin and Johnson are the first black women to win a national debate championship tournament, according to the Cross Examination Debate Association. {snip}

Amber Kelsie, one of two coaches for Towson’s debate program, compared the Cross Examination Debate Association national championship to the “Super Bowl” of debate championships. {snip}


Johnson, an 18-year-old sophomore, called the win “surreal.” The team spent untold hours poring over books, articles and other publications to craft their arguments, then took more time to practice their delivery strategies, she said.

“The arguments we construct are like mini-dissertations,” Johnson said. “One of our strongest things is being adaptable, not just to our opponents, but when you get judges, you have to assume that they’re susceptible to certain types of arguments.”

Kelsie said both teams in the final round agreed that police brutality, the prison-industrial complex and structural poverty issues amounted to a “warlike violence” against black people in the U.S. But she said Ruffin and Johnson argued that the issue could be overcome not by focusing on the negative of the situation, as the opposing team did, but by imagining a better future.

Now Ruffin, 21, and Johnson are designated among the top 16 debate teams in the country. Ruffin placed second and Johnson placed fourth in the individual rankings.