For the first time in school history, the Berea College Speech and Debate Team of 2013-2014 is nationally ranked. According to the National Parliamentary Debate Association, Berea is ranked 19 out of 146 colleges in the nation. Inclusion in the top 25 ranking qualifies the team to compete in the national tournament in February.
While individual debaters have qualified for nationals in the past, the team as a whole has never achieved this accomplishment. Billy Wooten, associate professor of communication and director of forensics, has been at the helm of the team since 2001. Wooten explained forensics as “the umbrella for all things speech and debate related in competition form. It’s taking any kind of public speaking form and turning that into competition to better oneself at public speaking.”
As a co-curricular activity, the speech and debate team equips students to excel in academic and work-related endeavors they may face now and after college. An impressive 93% of first-year debate team students go on to graduate. 78% make the dean’s list; some go on to graduate school, and many are involved in activities like student government.
The most recent speech and debate tournament that took place in Owensboro, Kentucky, saw Berea excel both individually and as a team. During the 2012-2013 academic year, the team competed in eight tournaments and won more 95 individual and team awards. Since 2003, Berea has hosted its own tournament, The John G. Fee Memorial, which offers both parliamentary debate and the standard AFA-sanctioned individual events.
The speech and debate team looks to improve upon their winning record and has five tournaments left, including the national tournament.
Without question, participation in forensics benefits students far beyond just picking up a few awards. There’s no debating that.