(May 30, 2003) -- Long Beach City College has a nationally recognized, award winning debate team -- but it may not be debating anyone in the coming academic year.
The debate team program is being put on a one year hiatus, a decision that the chair of LBCC's Speech Communication Dept. told us a few weeks ago stemmed from the departure of the current forensics director...and the inability to find the right new person to handle competitive debate coaching.
The departmental decision, which means speech and argumentation classes will continue but LBCC's debate team will be silenced in the coming academic year, has now percolated up the LB Community College Board of Trustees.
At the Board's May 27 public meeting, a debate team member used her communication skills to urge continuing the debate team program...and asked that issue be put next month's Board of Trustees' meeting agenda.
"It's kind of like you were to teach the theory of football but not have a team," LBCC debate team member Hayley Brandt told Boardmembers at their May 27 meeting.
Ms. Brandt addressed LBCC Board of Trustees during the period allowed for public comment on non-agendized items. Addressing the board as an individual but accompanied by three other debate team members who observed from the audience, Ms. Brandt said LBCC's debate team had been awarded a total of $50,000 in forensics scholarships in the past two years...and the debate team program was named best off-campus activity at LBCC by the Associated Student Body.
In mid-April 2003, a team fielded by LBCC won Gold Medal honors at a national tournament held by Phi Rho Pi, the honor society for speech competitors who attend two year colleges. The LBCC team achieved Gold Medal status (with ten other schools) at the Portland, OR tournament that pitted 114 teams in competitive Parliamentary Debate.
Ms. Brandt, who won an individual bronze award for Extemporaneous Speaking in the Portland competition, told LBCC's Trustees the school's debate program gave students invaluable experience...and urged the Trustees to put the issue on their agenda for next month's Board meeting.
Ms. Brandt's presentation got the attention of Board of Trustees chair Diane McNinch.
"Very well put, thank you, and as a former speech and debate team member, that certainly touches my heart," chair McNinch said, adding later, "The fact that you [and other debaters] have accrued or earned over $50,000 in scholarships I think is very noteworthy."
Board Chair McNinch asked Dr. Mary Callahan (VP Academic Affairs) and another individual to look into the matter, and a staffmember indicated it would discussed with LBCC Superintendent-President, Dr. Jan Kehoe.
"That's very much appreciated," Board chair McNinch said.
But when LBReport.com telephoned Dr. Callahan on May 30 to follow-up for this story, she told us the issue was still under "investigation."
[LBReport.com comment: "Investigation"? Yikes!]
LBReport.com didn't conduct an "investigation," but did telephone Prof. Richard Carroll, an Assistant Professor who chairs LBCC's Department of Speech Communication. Prof. Carroll fielded our inquiry a few weeks ago, offering us a straightforward response.
Prof. Carroll indicated that LBCC's debate program would take a one-year hiatus due to the expected departure of the current Director of Forensics. He said the department had been unable to find another person to handle the task, and for that reason the debate program would be put on the back burner until the department finds the right person.
Prof. Carroll indicated that coaching a debate teach is a unique assignment and requires just the right person. .He noted that not everyone who teaches classes has the ability and the time required to undertake coaching forensics students. Carroll noted that debate coaching requires specialized skills and a significant investment of time (including some weekends) and energy. He said the department had thus far been unable to find the right person...but would continue to look.
He said that although LBCC will not have an actual inter-collegiate competitive team in the coming academic year, regular classroom instruction in speech and forensics skills will continue. [The LBCC catalog for 2003 indicates a course in "Elements of Argumentation and Debate" among others in the department is being offered.]
LBCC's web site indicates the Dept. of Speech Communication has eight full time professors and ten part time instructors. The department web page also states in pertinent part: