Franklin & Marshall College Franklin & Marshall College

The Debate Club

Expanding Learning Horizons

The College Houses do more than initiate programs. They also enhance campus-wide activities that don't originate in the Houses.

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Such was the case when Timur M. Abenov '09, a business and economics major, and Raju Rayavarapu '09, a chemistry major, decided to start a Debate Club at Franklin & Marshall.

They formed the club, then used the House program to drum up support and interest.

Right before Abenov transferred to Franklin & Marshall, he studied in Berlin for a year. That's where he was introduced to and impressed by first-class debating societies.

"I was never a shy kid," he says, "but I had trouble speaking in front of the public, or making persuasive and cohesive arguments." He wanted to become as polished, eloquent and confident as the speakers in the debate clubs he saw in Germany.

This sparked a desire to start a Debate Club at Franklin & Marshall. He found a partner in Rayavarapu, who also saw the value of helping students hone their debating, parliamentary and speaking skills.

Rayavarapu lived in Schnader House but Abenov lived off-campus. With the help of Brooks House Don Jack Heller and other faculty and administrators, they turned their concept into a reality.

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"We thought it was a terrific opportunity to promote debating as an activity through the Houses since they have the means to disseminate information so effectively," Abenov says.

This dissemination led to an inter-House debate tournament that attracted students' parents to the final round, where they could watch their sons and daughters win trophies for their Houses.

The inter-House tournament was an experience that, like other House activities, expanded residents' learning horizons.

"They (the debaters) continue the dialogues started during debates while back in their dorms," Abenov says. "They do research and compare ideas. It forces government majors to learn about philosophy, or science students to expand their understanding of the philosophical principles of our legal system."