Debate… When You Can’t Leave Campus

Written by on September 15, 2020

One of the hallmarks of debate and forensics is the atmosphere of the competition, your teammates and all your opponents wandering around the same campus, making small talk and enjoying each other’s company. However, the days of traveling to different schools in different states, cramming into auditoriums for awards and spending nights at steakhouses with the team have come to an end… for now at least. The team’s season last year was cut short during the national circuit, with only one tournament at the national level attended, and now, as school starts once more and the debate season nears, questions loom. The most important question out of the many that the debate team might have, is how are they going to compete?

Bryce Boyd | KWU Student Media

Kansas Wesleyan debaters last season at Howard Payne University.

Head coach Gary Harmon and assistant coach Kiefer Strorrer immediately went to work, trying to figure out ways for their team to attend competition and win awards in a time when their contemporaries aren’t inviting anyone to compete. “People are trying to find a way to move tournaments online.” Said Harmon, and he’s right, when classes and our own government have found ways to communicate and speak over the internet, the collegiate debate sphere is doing the same. Zoom, Skype or even Microsoft Teams are possible solutions to allow schools from all over the country to compete against one another. But, how exactly does this process really work, and how are competitors judged?

I was able to discuss this further with head coach Gary Harmon and he provided some insight into how tournaments in the age of COVID will actually function. There are two types of tournaments that could be run online, synchronous and asynchronous. Synchronous tournaments are all run at the same time, with competitors put into the same video call along with a judge, and from there they will either debate one another or give their speeches, and when they are finished they log out and wait for the next round. Asynchronous tournaments are run out of sync, competitors will record their events, debaters will record their round and then everything is sent to judges who decide who won. Regardless of which model of tournament is chosen, things will move differently than in the past. Competing in a tournament against teams from all over the country while at the same time not actually leaving the confines of your campus is going to be something to get used to. Every competitive activity here on campus is going to have to make changes and sacrifices in order to continue functioning during a time in which interaction is limited and regulated, and as a result teams all over America will find their own little ways to make things work in any way they can. And the debate and forensics team here at Kansas Wesleyan is no different, and will take the challenges and changes as they come.


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