Whitman Debate Team suspended for minimum 2 years

Aleida Fernandez

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**The investigation into the suspension of the Whitman Debate Team is ongoing. The Pioneer will report more information as it becomes available.

Following the recent cancellation of the Policy Debate Team season, President George Bridges wrote in an email today that the college would be suspending all Debate Team activities for a minimum of two years. The decision came after multiple years of Title IX complaints and other “problematic behaviors” by team members and coaches during travel to competitions. Despite multiple investigations into the prevailing culture within the Debate Team on behalf of the college, according to Bridges, the persistent nature of the problems necessitated a “forceful intervention.”

“A culture on the team appears to have developed over many years in which sexual misconduct and the prohibited purchasing and use of alcohol has become a prevailing norm,” said Bridges in his email to the college.

According to the email, new allegations of policy violations were brought to the attention of Dean of Students, Chuck Cleveland, and Associate Dean of Students, Juli Dunn. Cleveland, Dunn and Provost Pat Spencer conducted investigated these accusations leading Spencer to cancel the scheduled nationals trip for two members.

In his email, Bridges expressed his sincere disappointment at the members and coaches of the Debate Team for, what he called, their flagrant disregard for team rules. The college will now issue an independent review which at the end will determine the future funding and fielding of a Whitman debate team.

In the meantime, Whitman will be:

1. Suspending all Debate Team activity immediately. We expect this suspension will continue for a minimum of 2 years

2. Suspending the summer Whitman National Debate Institute (WNDI) indefinitely

3. Taking personnel action in cases where staff members were implicated in the team’s violations

4. Planning to conduct an independent review of national collegiate debate programs and culture in an effort to determine whether it is possible for Whitman to continue to compete in debate in a manner consistent with our values and behavioral expectations for our teams and coaches.  This review will seek to identify debate programs at schools similar to Whitman (but where egregious misconduct is not present) and to identify and describe the structures, policies and practices at those institutions inhibiting these problems from occurring.

It’s important to understand that our expectations for the Debate Team are no different than those we place on our intercollegiate athletic teams,” concluded Bridges. “While deeply regrettable, the pervasive nature of the problems with debate warrant the steps outlined above. The actions I have described seek to address the problems within Whitman Debate thoughtfully, effectively and as promptly as possible.”

 

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