EWU’s Debate Team provides the perfect outlet for students to show off their skills or even build stronger ones.
What’s more, you as a student have the option of getting anywhere from one to three credits in the Communications Program (up to five if taken twice) if you take the class offered for debate team members, which is Communication Studies 326: Forensics.
If an overload of credits is a problem, the option of participating in the team without credit is also available, with the added perk of being able to attend class lectures for free, a feature which is great for highly dedicated students. Class is held every Monday from 2:00 to 3:50 p.m. in the Communication Studies building, room 221, followed by a brief team meeting afterwards, which is required for every team member.
Class lectures and debates in CMST 326 are given by Jeanne Ratliff, M.A. of the Communication Studies Department, who is supervisor and coordinator of Eastern’s Debate Team.
Team members are given their topics one week before the next class debate in order to read and research both sides of a current issue before discussing it. However, no sides are assigned until right before the start of the debate session, in which both panels have 15 minutes to prepare their argument for discussion.
Debates are conducted in parliamentary style (two teams of two panel members each with a judge to oversee the procedure), and usually followed by constructive critique by Ratliff and fellow teammates, who alternate roles between panel members and judges every week to give each student a chance to play both types of roles.
Now for the best part: as a member of the EWU Debate Team, you are also eligible to attend and participate in statewide tournaments.
Each tournament holds six debate rounds in one day, with improvised topics and only 15 minutes of preparation for each case. These debates also schedule individual events in which every team member is able to prepare for and participate.
10 to 15 individual events usually take place, ranging in variety from a speech class or informative or persuasive speech to oral or dramatic interpretations or after-dinner humorous speeches.
The first debate for the fall quarter is scheduled for November 5th at Lower Columbia Basin College in Longview, Washington, but plans to attend that tournament are currently under discussion due to the need for more preparation and funding, as well as a larger group of students.
If more students join the team (which is still possible for this quarter, although only under the no credit option), Ratliff says that they will be able to attend the next upcoming tournament on November 19th in Linfield, Washington.
According to Ratliff, participating in team debate and forensics courses has many benefits. One of these important features is the impact it has on critical thinking and argument construction.
She also points out that the style used in these debates enables a student to practice thinking on their feet, a highly useful skill for our culture’s everyday interactions.
In addition, participating in debate sessions requires an individual to understand both sides of an argument, as well as learn that there are two valid sides to every debate.
This process, Ratliff says, helps an individual to think for themselves using their own beliefs and values as well as educated reasoning, or what she refers to as one’s ‘mental ringer.’
Many of Ratiff’s students have expressed similar sentiments in their enthusiasm for the debate program as well as cited benefits they have received from participating.
Sabrina Mize, a first time student in the course and State Treasurer for Delta Epsilon Chi (the college division of DECA), plans to use the skills acquired in her experience to help her run for President in the upcoming program elections as well as hone those same skills for a future career in politics.
Justin Tuttle, also interested in a career in politics, hopes to further personal goals by learning how to argue in a professional manner so he can write speeches for politicians.
Other students stressed the benefits of the communication skills learned, many of which have helped them guarantee success during job interviews.
‘I’ve never been turned down in an interview due to the fact I have communicated so well,’ said Garrett Havens, an avid first-time team member and experienced debate champion from Spokane Falls Community College.
Many participants in the program have even signed up for personal reasons.
Catherine Goff hopes to use her experience to help her think quickly on her feet, and Nicole Mohrmann wants to build skills in using non-confrontational ways to build an argument or communicate with others.
Ratliff added that even more important than building professional communication skills is the fun students have during their experience.
‘People are surprised at how much fun it is,’ said Ratliff, ‘it’s not just high and dry academia, it’s exercise for the mind.’
Ratliff and her students have hopeful plans to attend at least one tournament per quarter this year, and they are looking for more enthusiastic students who would like to join the program as soon as possible.
She is looking to build a strong team this year and hopes that with the growth in membership, more funds will be allocated toward financing the program and travel expenses for attending tournaments.
Ratliff and her colleagues are also sponsoring a debate forum on Tuesday, November 9th in the MPR at 6:00 p.m. for anyone that is interested in attending and observing how some of the debate styles are used.
For more information, Jeanne Ratliff is available in the Communications Department at 359-7474.