Inside the Stuyvesant Speech & Debate Team

We sent special investigators into the speech & debate team, perhaps to uncover their unnerving secrets.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

We begin our investigation into the Stuyvesant Speech & Debate team at its headquarters, room 627, upon anonymous reports of mysterious yapping activity. As our team of journalists enter, we are met with a growling cry: “Where the HELL is the Economist login?!”

Beyond the hunched-over students is a photo wall of the team’s wholesome moments. Cute! Until the pictures became more obscure. First, two suited debaters smiling with a trophy. Adorable. But then, an image of someone bowing to a Pilot pen, with the faint caption: “ALL HAIL THE G2.” And then—the strangest yet—an image of nothing but a small blue logo, with an inscription written in a maniacally chilling red ink… “TABROOMTABROOMTABROOMTABROOMTABROOM…”

We decide to interview the seniors of the room—Erica Liu and speech captain Ethan Khosh, who we are told help run the team due to their seniority. However, upon inquiring about the practicing habits of the debate team, they quickly mutter back in terrifying unison, “It’s SPEEEECH and Debate. They always forget the speech. ALWAYS! Ahhhhh, we’ll make sure they don’t forget…” We slink away out of fear, weirdly reminded of Gollum, as they begin speech warmups comprising of reciting the entire U.S. Constitution in an Elmo voice.

Groups of students of all ages hunched around their computers—often decorated with Ivy League stickers—animalistically hunt for evidence, news, or whatever it is they spend their hours after school doing daily. The Extempers—Extemporaneous Speaking: speakers who speak for seven minutes answering a question they got 30 minutes beforehand—we are later told, are the worst of these entities. One anonymous freshman comments, “Once, I asked how much a halal platter would cost because I was hungry, and one of those lunatics started hissing and snarling about inflation and interest rates. Like, I know I put on weight, but you don’t have to call it inflation…”

We quickly move out of room 627 and onto the rest of the sixth floor classrooms that different debate categories take over after school, only to run into another speech session across the hall. “AGAIN!” screams a senior coach, as a sophomore interpreter—Oral Interpretation: the dramatic performance of a preexisting text—chokes back tears as repeats her line. “AGAIN!! MORE ANGER!” I later ask how long she’s been redoing that line. She shows me a desk where she’s scratched in tally marks to count the days—she hasn’t left the building since beginning to practice this piece. We move on.

We find ourselves in the Congress practice room next—Congressional Debate: student senators argue to either pass or turn down a bill in the chamber—only to cover our ears. The shouting grows louder. I distinctly recall nodding, however, upon hearing one student yell, “YOU ARE A MURDERER IF YOU PASS THIS BILL ON CHOCOLATE WRAPPER REGULATIONS,” as they really do sound like our actual congressmen. Except these Congress students could probably negotiate better than our current Congress.

Next is the parli lesson—Parliamentary Debate: two-on-two debates with nearly no prep time. Little can be said about the content as it is left ignored on the SmartBoard. “TABROOOOOOOMMMMMMMMM,” they chant in a circle with a legal pad in the center. I ask a crazed varsity debater in the hallway what this is about, and she notes the time: one hour and 11 minutes since the “practice” had started. I am told that they do this to manifest all “1” rankings. 

There are certainly many more events, but at this point, we are deeply frightened by the rituals of this team. Still, for the sake of reporting, we tiptoe into the PF room—Public Forum: pair debates, what you think of when you think of debating—which is just filled with pairs of students speaking at the same time like those twins from The Shining. I am told by PFer and Speech & Debate Co-President Kikyo Makino-Siller that they practice telepathic compatibility to always crush the pair-based event. One anonymous source does, however, say that this talent is also used to psyche out the competition into fainting before the tournament begins.

Then this anonymous source runs into the center of the sixth floor where all teams gather. “TABBYYYYYY,” they began to chant in unison, walking around in another demonic circle—what is with these people and circles? except for their arguments, of course, which only follow straight logical paths… “TABBBBYYYYYYY THE TAABBBROOOOOM LORDDDDDDDD. WE PRAISE YOUUUU. GIVE US GOOD RANKSSSSS. RAAAAANKS!” All we can piece together is that this Tabby entity controls their prospects of winning each tournament. Yeesh.

Our investigative team carefully leaves the sixth floor—now a cacophony of practices, voices, and rituals. Many questions remain unanswered. What is a “Tabroom?” How have they not lost their voices? Why would Elmo ever be reading the U.S. Constitution? Is he a patriot? If so, which party would he be affiliated with? We may never know. But considering the trophies filling up their headquarters, there may just be a method to their madness.