For the first time in more than 13 years, an Augustana-affiliated debate team competed at an intercollegiate debate tournament. With the lowest number of student representation at the competition hosted by Northern State, the team members returned to campus with three awards, two for third place and one for fifth.
According to team coordinator Shane Farrow, the team began in March with weekly meetings in the Siverson Lounge aimed at discussing contentious social issues. Farrow, however, wished to take the group in a different direction.
“I wanted to see intercollegiate competition rather than discussion, so I went to see what support I could gather,” he said.
Of the 16 colleges Farrow contacted, Bethel was the first to respond, providing the team with an overview of upcoming events. Next, Black Hills State extended an invitation on April 2 to the last competition of the season on April 11 and 12. At this point, the Augustana debate team began to take shape.
With less than 10 days notice before the competition, Farrow said he chose to seek funding for the team’s competition expenses through the Augustana administration itself rather than through the Augustana Student Association (ASA).
ASA treasurer Seth Vogelsang explained that the team was officially recognized by ASA as a student group in March, prior to their desire to compete at an intercollegiate level.
“The reason why the team didn’t receive funding for the competition came from the fact that they didn’t request funds at that time,” Vogelsang said. “They asked ASA to fund their competition eight days before they left and that was less than the two-week approval period required for student groups.”
ASA president Matt Anderson said that the student senate requires at least two weeks’ notice prior to the event for all funding requests. This will allow time for the administration and planning committee to process the request and then present it to the senate for a vote.
“We feel it is important that ASA holds to these principles when making all of our financial decisions because it ensures that we give all groups a fair opportunity to apply for funding,” Anderson said.
He added that the goal of ASA is to give every student group as much funding as possible.
“We exist to support each and every student organization,” Anderson said. “The procedures we have in place help us do that as fairly and efficiently as possible.”
Though it didn’t follow the guidelines set by ASA, the debate team still was able to receive last-minute funding to attend the Northern State competition.
Next fall the debate team hopes to participate in 13 tournaments throughout the academic year, along with stepping up their recruitment efforts to appeal to a wider variety of students.
“Augustana is located within a very competitive high school league, and our argument for the administration to allow the team to expand is that the recruitment angle is undeniable in regards to schools like Lincoln, Roosevelt, Washington and Mitchell,” Farrow said.
Currently, Farrow is the coordinator of the group, while freshman Matthew Schilling serves as vice coordinator. Other members include Bryce Christopherson, Bryan Jackson, Tori Remington, Ray Asmah, Tyler Raehlser, David Kocisko, Cara Beck, Anthony Welter, Morgan Sorensen, Rachel Bjork, Tracy Lindsay and Damian Dagel.
Schilling added that he’s seen several faculty and students express interest in helping grow the debate team.
“We’ve had tremendous faculty support, which has been vital in getting the program running,” he said.
Farrow said his own objective for the upcoming year is to win back the traveling college debate trophy of South Dakota, an award that honors a group of Augustana debaters who died in a 1969 plane crash on their way back from a tournament.
“My personal goal next year is to have the team earn the trophy and keep it where it belongs for as long as possible,” he said.
Junior David Kocisko praised the success already achieved by the debate team.
“The Augustana team competed fiercely in 2014, especially given the level of preparation and time limitations we faced,” he said. “The sky’s the limit for future competitions.”