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The Poison Ivy League Part 44-Hypocritical Smiles

May 3, 2011

It was around this time that marijuana made its appearance on the Harvard debate team. As a whole, APDA is by leaps and bounds more a drunk place than a high one, with alcohol ingrained into the very culture of the circuit. But there have always been notorious pot-heads, and the substance is readily available to those who know where to look for it; in fact, a member of a final round in 2003 once wanted to call the case tight that weed was a preferable drug to alcohol! Interestingly, during Kimel’s senior year, marijuana in many ways took center stage on HSPDS even more than liquor, enlivening the weekly social gatherings which the new President’s administration helped to organize. More than alcohol, the drug’s side effects provided lively opportunities for impromptu debates and complemented the characters of chatter-boxes well. The team was soon divided almost evenly among those who preferred drink, those who preferred smoke, those who were indifferent between the two, and those who abstained from either. (Ironically, several members of HSPDS were once stopped by the Harvard University Police Department for suspicion of smoking reefer on the sidewalk when it was the rare occasion when it was really cigars).

The team soon became more cohesive than ever before, and its ambience was much happier and more welcoming than in previous years. Thrilled by their position at the forefront of the circuit, its ambitious members enthusiastically blurred the lines between rivalries and friendships. Ursus and Attila, sophomores now, were the closest of friends, as were Arianna and Petronius, the Sullas, and Kimel and Scott. Kimel was also on very warm terms with Sulla C and Jason and soon became reacquainted with Sulla B’s witty charms; together with Scott, the five of them often got together for impromptu games of Mario Tennis by Rufuslight. Sulla A, though only a room away, did not participate in these games.

Just below the surface, however, the team was not without its tensions. There were perhaps two major problems. First, some of its members, like Porus, were denied good partners by the existence of three teams in the TOTY race. Second, besides the increasingly slim participation of Aemilia, HSPDS was almost totally devoid of girls and dominated by a cocky culture of nerdy men. In the case of Arianna, the two problems overlapped. She was by far the most talented member of the class of 2005 without a consistent partner. At the same time, there were many moments when the inadvertent callousness of her arrogant peers probably very deeply hurt her feelings, though she did her best to hide her discomfort when she felt it. Whatever the case, though, for all its faults, HSPDS was a remarkable group of people, and to spoil the surprise, it went on to set the all-time record that year for the most individuals to ever to qualify for Nationals, with fifteen. This was, however, at least partially thanks to the team’s unwritten policy of deliberately losing out-rounds to unqualified members to help them reach finals. Whatever one thinks of the custom, that some top TOTY teams were willing to sacrifice potential wins at major tournaments to do this shows the unity of spirit among the rank and file and their generals.

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