CSUF speech and debate team develops confidence and life skills

In Features, Student Body

Some members of CSUF Intercollegiate Forensics, also known as Speech and Debate Team, tackle an impromptu speech when they compete. They choose a topic and are given two minutes to prepare a five-minute speech with supporting evidence from quotes they’ve never seen before.

“Have you ever had to speak without any kind of warning before?” asked speech coach Collette Blumer. “Some people consider impromptu speaking the scariest thing that you could possibly do that isn’t actually phy sically dangerous, but we like to consider it exhilarating.”

Confidence, life skills and academic abilities are what students gain from joining the Speech and Debate Team, said director of forensics and assistant professor of communication studies Erika Thomas.

Taylor Medina, business management major and transfer student from Santiago Canyon College, is about to finish her first semester at CSUF and qualified for nationals this year with her oral interpretation program.

“It’s such a supportive community and you’ll never get that same experience where people love listening to each other’s messages … speaking about current topics and things that really are happening in this world that need to come to light. We’re just kind of sharing our stories,” Medina said.

During the opening remarks of the forensics showcase held Tuesday for Comm Week, Mariela Garcia, Chicano studies, American studies and philosophy major, got a little emotional while addressing the crowd.

“People will usually look at my three majors and say that is the epitome of my success, but really it’s not. It’s debate,” Garcia said. “I credit the activity of debate, my debate experience, my debate friendships, my debate romance … as those kinds of epitomes of success.”

Garcia not only mentioned her appreciation for the academic success debate gave her or the professional networking, but also the ability to travel. Garcia said she never had the opportunity to experience the rest of the country because of her family’s financial situation, but debate allowed her to travel comfortably and make lifelong friendships while doing so.  

“Debate has really been the only reason I stayed here to be a Titan. My aspirations were really to just stay here for a year and then move on, but the moment that I walked into the debate team’s facilities and actually took part in the activity, that’s the moment that I knew I had to stay,” Garcia said.

At the showcase, the team gave the audience a taste of what they do. Students on the team performed a variety of events: an informative speech, an impromptu speech, an oral interpretation program and a policy debate.

Platform speeches are informative, persuasive and “after dinner specials.” Oral interpretation can be drama, prose, poetry or a program of literature. They are similar to acting and are almost always centered around a social issue.

Students usually stick to either speech events or debate events because they take up so much time to practice and perfect, Thomas said.

The CSUF policy debate teams have qualified for nationals five times in the past seven years. This year, they qualified but were unable to travel to Kansas City where the competition was being held because of Assembly Bill 1887.

The bill bans public universities in California to request for state-funded travel to Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina and Tennessee due to laws enacted in those states that discriminate against individuals on the basis of sexual orientation, gender expression or gender identity.

Because they were unable to travel to nationals this year, the team hosted the Western Regional Championship at CSUF on March 17 to March 19. The programs they competed against were Arizona State University, CSU Northridge, Fresno State, San Francisco State, Southwestern College and Weber State University.

CSUF Forensic students may choose to compete in either platform speeches, limited preparation speeches or debate while on the team. The team competes in an average of 18 tournaments a year and the speech tournaments are usually separated from the debate tournaments, Thomas said.

Debaters on the team compete in policy and public forum debate. These specific types of debate are based on arguments drawn from evidence. Thomas said researching evidence for arguments has been a central foundation for the team. This is why they don’t compete in parliamentary debate which does not require evidence based arguments.

Thomas said students grow academically, improve communication and research skills and will find a community when joining CSUF Forensics.

“Being a Titan on this team is really the best experience you can ever have in your undergraduate career. Anybody who can join please join because we are here with open arms,” Garcia said.

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