CSU’s former national speech debate team was cut from the Speech Department’s budget program in spring 2002. Now, without the ability to compete nationally, the team has been forced to make do with small, private funding.
“We’re privately funded, which is very expensive,” said Kyle Cheesewright, a junior political science major.
This is Cheesewright’s third year; he and other team members must now pay for entry, travel and hotel fees for about 20 people. During a long and drawn out battle, they talked to Associated Students of CSU, the ombudsman and every other avenue that could possibly help with funding.
“It was a vain attempt I suppose,” said Allyson Hollatz, president of the speech debate team. “It’s really hard for us to stay around as a team, because we are uniquely an academic activity in contrast to a lot of the sporting events that you see.”
In the mean time, team members have been asking the community to sponsor them. Donations have been sought from businesses and restaurants.
“The most obvious way we’re affected is that we can’t travel nationally, which impacts the way we’re ranked nationally,” said Matthew Plush, the vice president of the speech debate team. “We used to be ranked 15th, and now not so much. Now it comes out of the Plush fund.”
The team is only able to compete in about eight competitions, which is a lot fewer than last year. Denny Phillips, department chair for the speech department, strongly defends the department’s decision of cutting the team from the budget for problematic considerations.
Phillips said the decision was partly because nobody on staff was able to devote the time necessary to coach a competitive team.
Every CSU faculty or forensic has to teach, research and commit to service. If the employee wants to make a career at CSU (stay for ten years) they must meet these requirements or be terminated. As a forensic for the speech debate team, the person would have to be involved with coaching, traveling, judging and competing as well. Phillips explained that this adds to their workload and is too much responsibility to complete other requirements as a forensic.
“It’s hard for them to maintain a research agenda,” Phillips said. “In the last 14 years we had nine different people.”
For decades the department has been supporting the speech debate team’s travel expenses with money from the department budget. The director explained that his department doesn’t have the luxury to do that anymore.
“We don’t think we’re in a position to support 20 people with the same amount of money that 500 other students use,” Phillips said. “We think we can use money for speaking opportunities here (on campus) rather than send two people to Colorado Springs.”
The director has requested a new faculty position to help them redirect their budget plan and performances. Phillips encourages students to continue to debate. He is hoping that the creation of speech debate classes could supplement for a national debate team. He is waiting for more faculty to be hired for this future idea.
“I know it’s frustrating for the students involved to tell them we don’t have any money and have to get their own money,” Phillips said. “I’m really a supporter of the program.”
Meanwhile, the debate team is still hanging on with the little money they do have for competitions. Their next competition will be this weekend at Colorado College in Colorado Springs.
Any student is allowed to join the debate team. If interested, email Joe Horan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
-Edited by Colleen Buhrer, Shandra Jordan, and Andrew Whelan