Phi Rho Pi is a National Junior and Community College Forensic Association and Honor Society. This year, Bellevue College’s Speech and Debate team represented and competed in the 2013 national tournament sponsored by the Phi Rho Pi National Forensic Organization. Hosted in the outskirts of Los Angeles in Woodland Hills, CA from April 16 to 20, it was a tournament to hone the speech and debate skills for the debate teams of various two-year colleges around the region. Five of the students of the BC Speech and Debate team signed up for the tournament, bringing home with them three bronze awards and one silver award.
Denise Vaughan, advisor of the Speech and Debate team as well as political science instructor at BC, explained the atmosphere. Individual speeches and debates were done in individual hotel rooms at the Marriott Hotel Warner Center with the purpose of congregating all the big college speech and debate teams. As one of the judges for several debates, all of which were of students from different colleges, Vaughan explained “there were more computers in the room than there were people.” Most of the students there exhibited fairly experienced demeanors and performances, “they go up there and they’re throwing around jargon, and being funny, and know everybody. But unless you’re really in the culture, it’s like you going to Comic Con and not reading anything from Marvel.”
Alex Lee, one of the award winners, explained the tournament experience from his point of view. “It was really interesting in the way that there was a lot more focus on communicative and speech skills.” The process of how to get into nationals through the BC Speech & Debate team is by coming to meetings to practice the proper formalities of a speech and debate tournament. Students are welcome to come to meetings to learn more about how to debate on a variety of topics that include: politics, philosophy, sociology and virtually all topics.
After subscribing to the Speech and Debate Facebook page, students are then given the chance to sign up to be involved in the number of tournaments that Vaughan signs the college up for. Before the individual debates, students are given a chance to learn about their topic and do research on it before starting. “It may seem daunting at first, but you quickly get the hang of it,” says Sierra Siever, another one of the award winners at the tournament.
The diversity of intended majors covers a wide range of computer science to communications to environmental science. All students are welcome to come and gain the experience of learning how to effectively gain an audience’s affirmative agreement to one’s argument. It is definitely a place for learning and remaining up to date with the current events in the news— locally, nationally, and around the world. “There were a lot more individual events that focused and judged on how we made our speeches,” said Garrett Mosier, a third candidate that’s part of the team. He also won an award for earning enough votes from the judges panel, critiquing the style and eloquence of his argument.
According to the members of the BC Speech and Debate team, speech and debate are very important and competitive sports. They tried to emphasize their point that people don’t often pay attention to speech and debate unless they are actually involved. As society moves more towards a strictly electronic society, speech and debate is moving towards online debating where candidates upload YouTube videos as response to the questions being asked or the opposing candidate’s rebuttal. This process can cause the debate to stretch for days, and the inefficiency of actually uploading a lengthy video has been causing difficulties.
Vaughan expressed her thoughts, explaining that “debate should be about speed and critical thinking. It’s for students to be put up and pressured to speak eloquently and effectively gain the audience’s approval even if that person doesn’t agree with their argument. I think we need more representation in this so that’s why we chose this nationals: to get more awareness of the seriousness of speech and debate.”