Speech and debate argues for preservation
After prioritization, the Forensics team faces phase out. | Christian Leonard/THE CHIMES
Biola’s speech and debate team, also known as the Forensics team, currently awaits a final decision from administration regarding its future following a phase out notice they received last summer.
Though the members of the speech and debate team remain willing to cooperate with administration, many feel saddened at the prospect of losing their team, including several alumni. Alumnus and adjunct professor Tim Milosch, who coached the debate team from 2010 to 2017, hopes administration will see the value that the forensics program can have for students both in and outside Biola.
“I’m currently not coaching the debate team, but I’m participating in efforts to represent the debate team as a concerned alumni,” Milosch said. “What we did over the summer was gather data from former speech and debate competitors as well as our counterparts at other Christian and secular universities who have competed with us... We compiled that information into a report which I presented to the provost at the end of the summer.”
The decision came after much careful thought, as it came on the heels of the prioritization process. This process attempts to provide a thorough analysis of what each program has to offer, and which programs have the highest priority to the university as a whole. Among other things, administration made the decision to phase out a few programs, including the Forensics team.
“The Forensics team, [much like many other programs], was reviewed and analyzed by a task force, who then made recommendations to the administration about areas of priority for the university,” said Joy Qualls, chair of the communication studies department.
The task force suggested phasing out the Forensics after determining it as one of the lower priority programs on campus. After some debate, administration decided to begin to phase out the 65 year-old program. Should the decision stand, the phase out will happen over the next four years.
“We’re still working through the details of the [phase out] process… a few members of the communications department, along with the coaching staff of the Forensics team, are working through what a phase out process looks like,” Qualls said.
Members of the team feel adamant about its impact among not only those it competes against, but also those that participate on the team.
“Take a look at the individuals, whose lives have been affected by Forensics… it’s really about communicating and being able to go out there and tell people what it is that we believe. If we at Biola University want to be about having that voice of conviction in the world, then learning how to use that voice well is essential, and the Forensics program has always been a great way for students to do that,” said Ben Vincent, freshman biblical studies major and new member of the team.
As the team starts its phase out process, it faces a lot of uncertainty regarding the next few years. In the meantime, however, the speech and debate team will continue to represent the Christian faith in a secular arena.
“Forensics as a program is incredibly supportive of the vision that administration has for Biola as being a preeminent Christian university engaging in broader culture,” Milosch said.