Emory debate pair Kristen Lowe (17C) and Viveth Karthikeyan (17C) defeated top-ranked Harvard University (Mass.) juniors Lev Asimow and Hemanth Sanjeev in the final round of the American Debate Association (ADA) National Championship March 13. Out of 28 institutions, including Wake Forest University (Mass.) and Vanderbilt University (Tenn.), Emory’s Barkley Forum clinched the national championship title.

“We have a history of losing to this Harvard team at this tournament,” Lowe said. “It was a good redemption.”

The tournament followed a public policy format, and competitors had to argue both for and against the restriction of greenhouse gas emissions in the private sector, according to Lowe.

The final round of debate was part of a long rivalry between Emory’s Barkley Forum and Harvard Debate.

To prepare for the tournament, Lowe said the team sacrificed its spring break and worked 10 hours per day on debate cases. Lowe and Karthikeyan are the only graduating seniors on Barkley Forum. They both intend to coach debate at a high school or college level in the future.

The duo’s victory marks the fifth time an Emory team has won an ADA title and comes nine years after its last win in 2008.

“Emory always does a really good job with keeping up with their research and making sure to innovate tournament after tournament,” Asimow said. “We knew that Emory was the team to beat if we wanted to have a successful run at [the championship].”

Asimow said Harvard’s strategy throughout the debate season edged toward property non-ownership, while Emory took a market-based approach, such as instituting a carbon tax.

“[Our argument is that] we have ownership of public lands in a way that provides the government the responsibility and authority to make economically and environmentally friendly decisions to essentially keep the carbon level below 300 parts per million,” Lowe said.

Barkley Forum also sent another Emory team, Tanner Lewis (19C) and Eric Marcus (18C), who advanced past the preliminaries but lost to Asimow and Sanjeev in the octo-finals. Emory was given the Two-Team Award for earning nine wins, the highest total victories between schools that sent two debate teams.

“It meant a lot because it shows that Emory is not just about individual success but making sure that all its members have a chance to compete and do well, and we excel at that role,” Lewis said.

Barkley Forum Executive President Ed Lee praised Lowe’s and Karthikeyan’s performances.

“There is a long tradition of success in the Barkley Forum, and one of the things we talk about is how do you fit within the legacy of the Barkley Forum,” Lee said. “These are two students who can be very proud about continuing that tradition, and they should have no concerns about the legacy they are leaving.”

Emory will send three debate pairs to compete in the 71st National Debate Tournament hosted by the University of Kansas March 24 to 27, where they will once again encounter an Emory-Harvard showdown.  

Richard Chess contributed reporting.