Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Annual debate tournament brings high schoolers, tension to Whitman campus

Whitman’s 37th annual High School Speech Tournament begins today, Nov. 5, and continues through Saturday, Nov. 7. While the tournament is a big source of funding for the debate team, the influx of high school students puts a strain on the campus.

“It’s great for the debate team but it’s unfortunate for the rest of the campus because of how hard it is to handle that many people,” said sophomore Geni  Venable, who helped keep tournament events running smoothly as a first-year member of the debate team last year.

Around 500 to 700 students attend each year, a number equivalent to approximately 40 percent of the Whitman student body.

“It’s like having a mass group of prospies,” said senior debate team member Ali Edwards.

The student influx puts a particular burden on Reid staff for those three days. Each year, Barbara Maxwell, associate dean of students and student programs, hires extra staff members to manage the influx of students in Reid.

“It does have value for the college in many ways; it’s just rough,” said Maxwell. To prepare for the tournament, Maxwell spends the afternoon prior to students’ arrival “sanitizing” Reid by locking away many of the chairs, rugs and other furniture that may otherwise be susceptible to abuse by the mass amounts of people.

“It would be ideal if Whitman students could not be on campus,” Maxwell said.

Maxwell said she understands that there are time constraints due to the debate season. She suggested that having the tournament over the four day weekend or during Whitman’s  Thanksgiving break would make the tournament less stressful for the campus.

As of Wednesday, Oct. 29, Whitman students began to notice the fluorescent pink posters taped outside classrooms, and even dorm section study lounges, where debates are scheduled to be held. In past years debaters could even be found in the library study rooms but that was ended due to the distraction it caused.

While catering to hundreds of high school students can be difficult for the campus, members of the debate team and Walla Walla community reap the benefits.

“It allows us to compete at regional and national tournaments because it provides funding,” said Jim Hanson, professor of forensics and debate team coach via e-mail. “At the past two tournaments, we have been in finals in every debate division we have entered [and won three of the four finals rounds].”

Also, according to Hanson, the tournament generates approximately $120,000 for the local economy.

Whitman debaters also benefit from judging the tournament.

“The students learn to be better educators and to give constructive criticism,” Hanson said.

The tournament helps the college debate team recruit new members. Senior Nathan Cohn, part of a debate partnership ranked in the top ten nationally, is one of three senior Whitman debaters who participated in the tournament while in high school.

Whitman’s tournament is significant because it is one of two held annually in the Pacific Northwest that qualifies competing students for the Tournament of Champions.

“We’re really, really lucky to have this tournament in our own backyard. It’s such a beautiful campus and we’re very thankful that you’re willing to have us,” said Sarah Sherry, debate coach for Puyallup High School.

As a judge, Edwards has had a positive impression of the high school students.

“Generally speaking [the high school students] are willing to do anything to look impressive in the eyes of college students,” she said.

Although tough to manage at times, the tournament continues thanks to the efforts of the debate team and the Reid staff.

“I make it work,” said Maxwell.

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