WFU out-debates reigning champs

Two Wake Forest students won first and second-place honors at the ACC Debate Tournament


The Deacs defeated four schools en route to the championship.

Aine Pierre, News Editor

For Wake Forest’s top debaters, junior Brianna Aaron and senior Ruby Klein, you couldn’t write a better storybook ending.

In the ACC tournament held on April 10, the two Deacons took on the reigning champions from Notre Dame and defeated them to earn top honors. Because Klein will be graduating and Aaron plans to study abroad, this will be the last tournament the duo competes in.

“This tournament was a lovely culmination of my time debating at Wake Forest,” Klein said. “I feel so lucky to have gotten to end my ‘debate career’ with [Aaron], and I’m so happy we were able to bring the ACC title back to Wake Forest.”

En route to the championship, Wake Forest defeated Duke, Georgia Tech, Pittsburgh and the University of Miami.

“We were very energized,” Aaron said.

The ACC tournament, which only recently reappeared in 2015 after a decades-long hiatus,  was won frequently by Wake Forest students in the 1960s, according to Debate Director Dr. R. Jarrod Achison.

The national championship caps a year of firsts for the debate team, as they have had to compete over Zoom.

“Debating over Zoom creates a totally different environment. You lose the ability to connect with judges and the power of a physical audience,” Klein said. “Online debate also makes a lot of the more restorative elements of debate tournaments harder, whether that’s decompressing after debates with teammates and competitors, or simply taking a break from staring at a screen.”

According to Aaron, debating over Zoom involved securing spaces in Greene Hall where she can practice and, ultimately, debate, since interruption by roommates in dorm rooms or passersby in public would be disastrous for a competitor in a debate tournament.

Aaron said that another consequence of debating online is the resulting lack of connection with teammates.

“There isn’t as much room for us to be personal or connected with each other,” Aaron said. “For example, a lot of our freshmen teammates, I haven’t really seen in person.”

Despite all the complications, the pair is just happy to be doing what they love.

“I’m absolutely grateful that we’ve had the opportunity to continue debate,” Klein said. “Even if it means doing it over Zoom. We’ve been able to stay safe and compete against teams across the country without leaving our campus, which makes it all worthwhile for me.”

Achison had nothing but high praise for the pair.

“This is a dominant performance that reflects the hard work of [Klein] and [Aaron] along with the Wake Forest Debate coaches,” Achison said. “Debating over Zoom is incredibly difficult, but Ruby and Brianna managed to go undefeated against the best competition the ACC has to offer.”