School of Communication & Media

Sailfish Debate & Forensics: About the Team

Frequestly Asked Questions about the team:

How do I join the debate and forensics team? Sailfish Debate and Forensics has no formal audition process. All students are welcome. Simply sign up for COM 3041 each semester if you wish to have college credit for participating, or merely show up on Mondays at 4 pm if you want to be involved without credit. Either way students receive instruction, practice, and critique for their participation and for their contribution to the team’s research effort on the university debate topic. The team meets once each week. Once teams are created (2-persons) they are expected to work together on case assignments and mock debates. The resources devoted to each participant, or team, in terms of travel, food, and housing, in addition to participation fees, will depend on the level they contribute to the collective team. If you would like to join the team, merely contact Dr. Robert Fortner.

Who coaches the debate and forensics team? The coach of PBA’s Sailfish Debate and Forensics team is Dr. Robert Fortner. He was an active debater and participant in individual forensics events while a student at Otterbein University. He won multiple state championships in novice debate, four-man debate, two-man debate, extemporaneous speaking and original oratory. He also debated in NDT tournaments as an undergraduate. He then served as a teaching assistant in debate at Indiana University before completing his Ph.D. at the University of Illinois. He teaches Communication Theory and Research, Communication Ethics, Intercultural Communication, Introduction to Media, Public Speaking, Global Digital Media Ethics, and new courses in Civil Discourse, Conflict Resolution, and Negotiation and Mediation Strategies. He is working on his eleventh published book.

Once the program is well-established, senior level students will assist as assistant coaches. Other Communication faculty will critique student preparations as part of preparation for individual forensics events.

How many students participate in debate and forensics? We don’t know yet, since the Fall semester 2018 will be our first semester of Sailfish Debate and Forensics. But you can help us fill out our roster of competitors.

How are debate teammates determined? Several factors are important in determining debate partners. These include, first, the amount of commitment of students to mastering the topic of each year’s NDT and CEDA tournaments, which includes such activities as researching the topic, preparing case cards, writing affirmative and negative cases, and participating in mock debates to prepare for competition. Second is chemistry between potential partners. Partners need to be comfortable with each other’s expertise on the topic and their ability to respond to novel arguments from opponents. The most important positions in a debate are the second affirmative and the second negative speakers, who are usually team captains. The strongest debaters are assigned to these positions. Debaters must also be skilled in conducting, and responding to, cross-examinations on their presentations. The primary decision about partners is made by the coach, but he seeks input from the students themselves. Since debate and forensics is an intercollegiate competition, we want to field the strongest teams we can.

Is debate and forensics an individual or a team activity? It is both. Debate is a team activity, while forensics involves individuals engaged in different types of speaking events. However, most forensics competitions also create team standings so overall winners can be determined.

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