Recently I've noticed an increasing number of stories coming into my google reader where universities and colleges are cutting their debating team in order to maintain, or increase, funding to other societies. I think this is a shameful short sighted policy.
There may be an argument that the debating society can compete just as well internally among its own members with no budget to attend external competitions. However that is like saying the football team does not need to compete in a league as the A-squad and B-squad can compete against each other every week. You will quickly reach a point where the development of the members is stunted and that in turn will filter down to newer members coming through as they will not have a strong competitive squad to learn from.
I realise that in these recessionary times Universities have many calls on their budget. There may be more high profile causes making very loud and vocal claims against a small pot of funds. It may appear that elite sports or theatre groups are a better use of the limited money. However college administrators should remember that while elite sports really only benefit elite athletes with a natural ability every first year student who walks through the doors of the college has the potential to debate nationally and internationally at the highest level if given the training and resources to do so. While a theater group or 20 or 30 students can put on 2-3 expensive shows a year a properly resourced debating society can put on several low cost debates a week reaching hundreds of students.
I'm sure colleges will say that their situation is unique and that I'm talking without knowing their individual circumstance. That cutting debating will allow greater investment in another department. That debating isn't that different from theatre and the members can simply transfer. But that is like saying that Soccer and Rugby aren't that different so we will cut soccer develop rugby and the members can simply transfer.
Even if a student does not have the ability to be very successful at debating competitions instilling business and life skills such as public speaking and argumentation into a large number of their student population surely better fulfils the educational objectives of a college than having 3-4 elite athletes running around a track for 4 years. Where money is in short supply then colleges should look to cut evenly across the board rather than eliminate whole programmes.
Sheridan College Cuts Debate Team
SHERIDAN, Wyo. (AP) ― Sheridan College is eliminating its speech and debate team and reallocating the resources to develop the college's theater arts program.
Dean of Arts and Sciences Ardath Lunbeck says the decision was made collaboratively by members of the faculty and administration.
Lunbeck says the debate team has been successful, but student participation has declined and travel expenses for the team are high. Five students participated in the team this semester.
Speech and debate team coach Lillian Sager says she was saddened to see the program eliminated, but pleased to see the school's support for theater.
Since 1996, Sheridan College speech and debate team members have won numerous championships, including the National Forensics Championships at the Novice National Speech and Debate Tournament in 1999 and 2000.