“One of our freshmen beat me in one of my speech events, which was super cool just to watch her!” - Sara MuscenteRead More
Chris Reichert|Staff Writer
Earlier this November, the Whitworth University Forensics team, “The Arguing Bucs” placed 4th out of 32 at the 87th annual Mahaffey Tournament at Linfield College, with all attending team members making it to finals in at least one event.
“Every Pirate brought home an award from the tournament,” said Mike Ingram, professor of communication studies and the team’s coach.
This success continues the team’s trend of strong showings this year.
“Whitworth is consistently competing well academically against our peers from across the region,” Ingram said.
The Forensic Team participates in eight or nine tournaments over the course of a school year, with students competing in 11 speaking events ranging from pre-prepared informative speeches about gravitational waves to impromptu debates on postmodernism and its relation to President Trump.
“Forensics means a search for the truth…so as a team, we try to learn the skills helpful in doing that,” junior Sara Muscente said.
These skills are far-reaching in both their scope and their impact.
“No matter what you’re going to do, you’re probably going to need to talk to people, you’re probably going to need to communicate ideas, you’re probably going to need to be able to understand new information, and that’s kind of what’s at the core of forensics you understand information, you synthesize it whatever way you need to, and you are then able to communicate it to someone else,” sophomore Tucker Wilson said, tournament champion amongst novice and junior varsity students in the team’s most recent competition.
“I don’t think that you can be an effective really anything without an at least somewhat rounded repertoire of knowledge,” Muscente said.
The team attributes this year’s success to many factors, including Whitworth’s commitment to the liberal arts.
“It’s the breadth of the liberal arts that’s a real strength…we can help each other in really thoughtful and intelligent ways based on our knowledge base…If we were all comm, or all poli-sci, or all French majors, it would be less interesting,” Ingram said.
The forensics team is comprised of students of nine majors. The team members see this as an advantage.
“That’s something that our team in particular has always had as a really great strength, not just in our ability to help each other prepare for things like debates…but in addition, to just the actual action, we have a huge knowledge base,” Wilson said. Knowing how to learn is as important as what you learn, Ingram said.
“At Whitworth we’ve talked about the liberal arts teaching you how to learn, and how to continue being a lifelong learner. I think in a 30-minute contest we’re better equipped than students who are in a more narrow academic program at some larger universities. That speaks again to the power of the liberal arts,” Ingram said.
“Very quickly, everyone on the team gets very, very close to each other…Because we all become such good friends, it’s a better environment for us to grow,” Wilson said.
In such an environment, team members are better able to discuss ideas amongst themselves, which improves their performance on the debate floor and in their own lives in general, Wilson said.
Wilson considers this close bond of trust and support to be essential for a forensics team.
“A good teammate is someone who is, one, willing to give criticism, and two, can take criticism, and three, someone who’s very supportive,” Wilson said.
Wilson sees this mutual support and growth as the foundation of everything forensics stands for.
“This is civil discourse. It’s based on solid argumentation…the types of people we debate with, on our team and without, they know that we’re here to grow intellectually,” Wilson said.
“If you’re there just to win, you probably shouldn’t be there.”
The team hopes their commitment to the liberal arts and to conversational versus combative debate embodies everything Whitworth stands for.
“I’d like to think that we represent [Whitworth] very, very well…I think we do quite a bit for promoting Whitworth’s image,” Wilson said.
The Arguing Bucs have at least four tournaments remaining in the spring, and in March will host the National International Public Debate Association tournament for the first time.
Contact Chris Reichert at
Abebaye Asrat Bekele | Staff Writer
The forensics team was mentioned in the school’s 2017 budget prioritization report for bringing the university external recognition and for being more effective with funds than 12 out of 15 athletic programs.
In the report, head coach Mike Ingram accredited the achievement to the team’s successful history.
“There is a history and a culture of doing really well so that attracts high achieving students who want to do well,” Ingram said. “We are one of the four best IPDA (International Public Debate Association) debate programs in the country”.
Whitworth’s debate program has won the national championships of the National Christian College Forensics Association for the past four years in a row, Ingram said.
The team has 12 members for this season, which runs from October to April.
The team travels to eight to 10 tournaments per year, Ingram said. To prepare for those tournaments, the team meets twice a week and each individual member meets with Ingram for one hour every week. Assistant coach Evan Barnes is also available for help. In addition to weekly meetings, members are expected to practice on their own time.
Sophomore biology major Jesse Domingo has been a member of the forensics team since the fall of 2015..
“A lot of [the work], especially for debates is keeping up on your current events,” Domingo said.
Junior Rylee Walter, an English literature and speech communication major, has been a member of the forensics team for two years. A typical week for Walter is packed with forensics activities.
“We need to run speeches at least a couple of times a week and also to meet up with our team mates and run speeches,” Walter said.
The forensics team covers travel expenses, tournament entry fees, supplies, travel, meals and lodging for the participants.
“It [the budget] comes through the communications studies department under the college of arts and sciences,” Ingram said. “It is under the academic arm of the university.” The head coach allocates the money accordingly, by trying to find the best deals on travel and lodging.
Both Walter and Domingo describe their experience as fun and emphasize the team relationships they have.
“The benefits outweigh the costs,” Walter said. “The benefits I get from forensics are much greater than the risk, I guess, that I take by losing time in class.”
Domingo said the most important skill he has developed since being on the forensics team is his listening skill.
“You have to go and listen to your opponent make their argument and you have to make sure you are getting it clearly,” Domingo said.
Contact Abebaye Asrat Bekele at firstname.lastname@example.org