The Regent Undergraduate Debate Association (RUDA) recently achieved remarkable success at the Mid-South regional Moot Court competition, continuing Regent’s long-standing tradition of Moot Court excellence.
RUDA is on a mission to equip students with advocacy skills, preparing them for any future vocation. The organization attracts students with various goals such as pursuing law school or wanting to improve their public speaking. For the 2023-24 year, Mark Linkous (CAS ‘24) serves and presides over the board as president along with vice president, David Wanner. Rounding out the executive board are students Jonathan Grassmyer, Katherine Hunnicutt, Jason Delgado, Susan Steele, and Tristan Moyer. Since its inception in the early 2010s, RUDA has competitively practiced Moot Court and has recently added Mock Trial to their repertoire.
Before the start of every academic year, RUDA receives a case packet from the American Moot Court Association (AMCA). The packet includes a case that presents two constitutional issues. This year, the issues dealt with the right to privacy, specifically whether or not it extends to the use of contraception, and the free exercise clause in the First Amendment. At the competition, students argue as either the Petitioner, which represents the state government, or the Respondent, representing the individual whose rights were allegedly violated, in front of a mock court. Roles are not assigned until the day of the competition, meaning all participating students must prepare to argue both sides of the case. This preparation takes place at RUDA’s weekly practices where they learn how to argue in a group setting, study the case law, collaborate and bounce ideas off each other, and rehearse their arguments. About 20 students participated in RUDA’s Moot Court this semester and 16 tried out in their screening to determine the individuals who would go to the competition.
Throughout the semester, RUDA worked closely with the Law School Moot Court Board, particularly with the undergrad liaison, Isaac Helland. Hellend frequently attended RUDA’s practices to offer substantive feedback on arguments and help them become acquainted with the case packet. However, this year was unorthodox as RUDA did not have an official coach. The challenge put much more emphasis on the program being student-led as the students willingly learned to help one another in small group settings. Leading up to the competition, RUDA still did not have a coach or chaperone, which would have made it impossible to travel and compete. Fortunately, PhD student and RUDA alum Nicole Dental stepped up to the plate and guided the students through the 2-day competition.
Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA hosted the AMCA’s Mid-South Regional Competition on Friday, October 27 and Saturday, October 28. RUDA sent four teams to the competition. Each team includes two students who have each mastered one of the case’s Constitutional issues. RUDA’s four teams were Tristan Moyer and Joseph Lin, Hannah Cavanaugh and Ben McKay, David Wanner and Zoe Abbott, and Mark Linkous and Sarah Beth Gossett.
The competition consisted of 28 teams from over 10 schools. All teams participated in the three preliminary rounds on Friday, but only the top 16 teams advanced to finals the next day. Competing against teams from the University of Virginia, Patrick Henry College, Yale University, Georgetown University, William & Mary, Liberty University, and more, three of Regent’s four teams qualified for finals. Linkous and Gossett advanced to the octa-finals, Wanner and Abbott to the quarter-finals, and Cavanaugh and McKay to the semi-finals. Being in the top four teams, Cavanaugh and McKay instantly earned a spot at the pre-nationals competition, which will be held at Louisiana State University. After the other regional competitions recently concluded, Wanner and Abbott learned they will be moving on to pre-nationals as well.
In addition to their phenomenal success in the preliminary and final rounds, RUDA students also received three oralist awards. Oralist awards are based on the preliminary rounds on Friday as both teams and individuals are evaluated for clarity, engagement, and overall speech presentation. Of the 56 students who competed, awards were given to the top 10 oralists. Abbott received 8th best oralist, Linkous 6th best, and Gossett 2nd best.
Gossett had this to say about her experience: “Competing in Moot Court with RUDA has provided me with a wonderful community and sharpened my argumentation skills. I have learned how to read and dissect difficult court cases, how to craft a concise argument, and how to present in a persuasive manner.”
Rather than resting on their laurels following their return, RUDA jumped back into action and held an intramural competition with the Law School Moot Court Board. The event was open for students and spectators to come and watch what the competitors had been working on all semester. Participating in and excelling in undergraduate Moot Court is no easy task. No one watching would guess that these students led themselves through a season without a coach.
RUDA President, Linkous, stated, “I want to thank our whole team this year for being so flexible and persevering through the changes this season and for taking initiative in learning their argument and the material! Our success at competition is a testament to their hard work.”
If you are interested in participating in RUDA’s programs or want to learn more about what they do, follow their Instagram @regent_ruda.