The Weber State University debate team is currently accepting applications for next year’s squad.
The team comprises students from several different majors, including political science, English, chemistry and pre-nursing. Students from all colleges and departments are invited to apply.
“The most important misconception people have is about the accessibility of the debate team,” said Dillon Olsen, captain of the debate team. “People read stories about it, and they think they’re too behind to get involved, or they don’t have the right major, but that’s just not true.”
All students who apply and are accepted to the debate team must enroll in COMM 2270 the following semester. In the class, students learn to research for debates and construct arguments, do several practice debates, and travel to a novice debate tournament and compete with students from other schools in an all-expenses-paid trip.
“Some people take this class who haven’t even applied to be on the team yet,” said Ryan Cheek, the assistant coach and a WSU alumnus, who debated from 2004-08.
The class is also an option for students looking to explore collegiate debate.
“With the 2270 course, you go to out-of-state tournaments and develop skill and see if you like it,” Olsen said. “It’s accessible to anyone at any skill level. It’s a good way to see if debate is something you want to pursue.”
Omar Guevara, director of forensics and head coach of the debate team, said it gives many students an experience beyond their first taste of collegiate debate.
“It’s a true, authentic Weber State bonding experience,” Guevara said. “A lot of people say that this class is the first time they connected with Weber State beyond just being a student. They see what our school stands for: a boutique college experience on a public pittance.”
Some students interested in debate might also be eligible for scholarships. In order to qualify for a scholarship, students must have at least two years of experience in team policy or Lincoln-Douglas debate, must be enrolled as a full-time WSU student with a cumulative 3.0 GPA, and must be available to travel with the team and participate in community service and outreach projects.
Additionally, students seeking scholarships must have graduated from a Utah high school. Other scholarships for out-of-state students are available through the Financial Aid Office.
Besides looking good on a resume or helping students earn scholarships, joining the debate team has many other benefits, according to the coaches.
“You will acquire the competitive edge to succeed in graduate school or law school or your chosen profession,” Guevara said. “It makes academic and professional achievement not only possible, but likely.”
Cheek agreed that it can provide more possibilities for a student’s future.
“Debate opened doors I would not otherwise had access to,” Cheek said. “I got paid to get my master’s so I could coach the debate team, and I didn’t get declined from a single school. It also provides a competitive nature and culture that is hard to find for people who are not naturally skilled in athletics, and it’s a great exercise in brainpower.”
Since its first year in 1922, the WSU debate team has hosted countless tournaments for collegiate and high-school levels. Next year, it will host the National Debate Tournament for the first time since 1988, just in time for its 90th birthday.
“The national organization put us through a six-month competitive process where we had on-site visitations and the head coach from Iowa State University,” Guevara said. “We’re going to bring in the 500 top debaters and coaches from across the country . . .”
The team is currently ranked 26th out of 113 nationally competing collegiate teams. It competes in District II of the National Debate Tournament with Denver University, Eastern Washington University, Gonzaga University, Idaho State University, the University of Puget Sound, the University of Oregon, Whitman College and the University of Wyoming.
The team participates in policy debates where one topic is given for the year. Teams of two students compete against each other in 6-8-round tournaments, switching between the affirmative and negative positions.
Students can apply to be on the WSU debate team or find more information about scholarship requirements at www.weberdebate.com.