PF Debate dominates Harvard tournament


Helena Zhang and Evie Steinam

The Public Forum (PF) Debate Team reached top four at the 49th annual Harvard National High School Invitational Forensics Tournament over President’s Day weekend. 315 teams participated in the varsity division this year. 32 members from PF Debate competed, with co-presidents Sean Lee (12) and Giselle Paulson (12) advancing to the semifinal round of the division.

The tournament’s topic was right-to-work laws, which are laws that affect labor unions. Teams debated as either the proposition or opposition side of the resolution “in the United States, right-to-work laws do more harm than good.” 

To prepare for the tournament, the team held meetings to inform debaters about the topic and help them develop cases, Jiyon Chatterjee (12) said. “It was kind of a niche topic, so we have research directors and debate presidents doing research for the team in advance.” 

Teams try to prepare for any argument that they might face, but not all responses can be prepared in advance, Emily Park (9) said. “We basically had pre-written responses, but if you didn’t have these responses, you would have to do analytics.” 

Throughout the tournament, members of the PF Debate team attended each other’s rounds to support fellow teammates. “What’s great about our team is that we’re so tight-knit, and everybody’s invested in each other’s success,” Chatterjee said. 

The younger members of the team were also very successful and one freshman team placed in the octafinals round of the junior varsity division, where most participants are sophomores, co-president Henry Levinson (12) said. Two sophomores placed second and third for the Best Speaker award over more than 600 debaters. 

The tournament was also a great place to meet and befriend people from all over the country, Levinson said. “I was a little nervous since it’s a really big tournament and the team had been preparing a lot, so there was a bit of pressure to do well.”