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    LBCC Silences Its Debate Team For Second Consecutive Year

    (November 8, 2004) -- After contending last year that its award winning debate team program was on a temporary "hiatus" due to a personnel vacancy, Long Beach City College has failed for the second consecutive year to offer its students the opportunity to be part of a debate team and participate in real inter-collegiate competitive debate with other teams.

    This time, an LBCC spokesperson says the reason is money.

    LBCC's interim Director of Community Relations and Marketing, Gail Schwandner told

    While it [the debate team] is a very effective and exciting program, it's also a very expensive program. It takes multiple faculty members to run the debate classes and the debate club. They [the faculty] concluded that in tight economic times, students are better served by having the speech classes offered rather than the debate class and club.

    In 2001, LBCC's debate team scored multiple national honors. In April 2003, an LBCC debate team won Gold Medal honors at a national tournament held by Phi Rho Pi, the honor society for speech competitors who attend two year colleges. LBCC achieved Gold Medal status (with ten other schools) in a tournament that pitted 114 teams in competitive Parliamentary Debate.

    LBCC will continue to offer regular classroom instruction in speech and forensics (a course in "Elements of Argumentation and Debate" teaches techniques and students debate each other in class.) However, LBCC students will not be able to participate in competition against other schools as part of a real debate team. first reported on the LBCC debate team issue in late May 2003 after a team member, Hayley Brandt, publicly urged LBCC's Governing Board of Trustees to continue the debate team program. "It's kind of like you were to teach the theory of football but not have a team," she said.

    Ms. Brandt noted that LBCC's debate team had been awarded a total of $50,000 in forensics scholarships in the previous two years...and the debate team program was named best off-campus activity at LBCC by the Associated Student Body. She added that LBCC's debate program gave students invaluable experience.

    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 (LBCC's then-VP for 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.

    A month later, in June 2003, the debate team issue returned to the LBCC Board of Trustees and the administration contended it was unable to find anyone suitable to coach LBCC's debate team. This explanation was accepted without much questioning by LBCC's elected Board of Trustees.

    In July 2003, Ms. Brandt returned to the LBCC Board of Trustees to respond:

    ...Another thing that they told us is that there is going to be a one-year hiatus and then they will bring the team back. Well this is obviously just a smokescreen because what happens in the next year is that the people who are fighting for the team are going to be transferring and so there will no longer be any opposition to the department and they will not have to bring the team back, because there will be no voice wanting it. Also, there was a one-year hiatus brought in the past. This one-year hiatus turned into a ten-year hiatus. It is not going to be just one year.

    ...Many of the people on the team have walked away. The 11 people from the past three years that have either gotten full rides to their four-year universities, or partial scholarships, this will have ended with them. And with that, I ask you to continue with this and remember the team...

    Vice President Kellogg: Thank you, Hayley. As long as you have your voice, Iím sure the debate team will be very active.

    Member Clark: This young lady certainly shows the program works and I wouldnít want to get into a debate with her. Let me ask, Gary, is this under your jurisdiction? It was indicated to us that you were looking for a faculty member that was going to be willing to work with this and I donít know what the status of that is currently.

    Dr. Gary Scott: Part of the issue is an ongoing long-time permanent support position. It needs a permanent faculty person to do this. To support an ongoing forensics team thatís successful, really needs full-time support of a full-time faculty. Weíve done it with hourly faculty in the past. Itís brutal and, frankly, for the hours that weíre able to support this particular assignment, itís kind of consuming some really good folks who are, out of the best intentions, trying to keep it alive and well. I would concur with your comments that itís a successful program. I mean you could sell snow to an Eskimo and be very successful at it, Iím sure, and thatís great. The issue is not do we value the worth or the value of the program, the issue becomes, as we find ourselves in this economic cycle, is this the best and highest use of the resources that we have. The fact of the matter is Speech is the second or third highest wait-list program in our entire school. We have more students waiting for Speech classes, and except for English and ESL, I believe itís the third highest wait list.

    Speech faculty have enjoyed a long success and a long tradition of Speech, but what theyíve come to realize is that to best meet the student needs of the institution, they felt as though it was best to use the resources available to provide instruction for the biggest number of students that we could. Itís a wonderful program, but itís a very expensive program to support. For ASB, per person, itís the most expensive program that they have and that is another issue that we need to resolve. There are faculty who have been involved in the Speech program at this college for over 20 years and at the risk of implicating one particular staff member, this is near and dear to his heart and he is actively working to come up with a way to possibly reorganize how the college supports our Speech and Forensics program and to, perhaps, do it in a more efficient way that would allow more students to have active participation in it and allow the college to have it where itís just economically viable for us to continue to support it. Thereís an active ongoing effort toward that goal right now.

    Vice President Kellogg: Would we have any report back on this item at all?

    Dr. Gary Scott: It would be inappropriate for me to speak for Dr. Callahan, but I know that itís an ongoing issue with us, with she and I personally, and I suspect that this will be an issue that we should report back on.

    Vice President Kellogg: Thank you. I believe the Board would like to see some progress on this because obviously it has been a highly demanding successful program, so those are the ones you want to fight to keep and Iím sure some of the members of the Debate Team are going to make sure of that.

    Ms. Brandt has since moved on to California State University, Long Beach.

    LBCC's Governing Board of Trustees next meets on Tuesday, November 9, at the Pacific Coast Campus, 1305 E. Pacific Coast Highway, at 5:00 p.m. in Building FF, Dyer Assembly Hall.

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