Debate team leaves tournament empty handed

On March 30, the Santa Monica College debate team sent its six best debaters to compete at the 2011 United States Universities Debating Championship tournament  at the University of Vermont – a three-day event with over 200 debate teams competing from schools around the world. The six SMC debaters were divided in three groups of two and competed in the British and World styles of Parliamentary debate. With schools like Harvard, Yale, USC, Cornell, and Duke attending, the SMC debate team was up against fierce competition and came up short in the end. After being the only community college in 2010 to land a team in the elimination rounds, this year was not as successful.

The team failed to win enough rounds in order to compete in the elimination rounds, causing the team to walk away without trophies this year.

Nate Brown, a professor of the Communications Department and SMC debate coach, considers the tournament a great learning experience and a good opportunity for the SMC debate team to meet debaters from other schools.

"We are sad and disappointed that we didn't do as well as we hoped, but we know we did our best and represented SMC very well," said Brown.

Sonya Allahyar, SMC debate team captain, is very proud of her team even if the results weren't what they hoped for. "It's not every day that you get to gather in one room with some of the most brilliant minds in the world," said Allahyar.

With the disappointing loss at the 2011 USU debate tournament, the SMC debate team got another disappointment when Professor Brown announced his retirement after this semester.

"I have no doubt the Speech and Debate team will be here for interested students for a long time," said Brown.

Brown will pass his title as debate coach to Speech professor Marcia Regina, who will lead the SMC debate team the following semester. They are planning to compete in the California Community College Forensics Association State Championship tournament in March 2012.

The SMC debate team formed in 2005 and by the following year started winning awards at various debate tournaments.

In the spring of 2007, the debate team won a bronze medal at the State Championship. The following spring, the team attended their first national championship tournament in Illinois where two of the team members won bronze medals in Impromptu and Extemporaneous speaking.

SMC's debate team has trained over 140 students. "About 40 of them have been winners, taking home trophies, plaques, and medallions, ranging from finalist to first place," said Brown.

The SMC debate team was a club for several years until 2009 when they turned into a one-unit independent study class. SMC regulations require that clubs have a full time teacher chaperone field trips, and Professor Brown, who teaches five classes, couldn't always commit to the demand. When the debate team became a class, Brown had more options of part-time teachers to chaperone when it was necessary.

The SMC debate team takes responsibility for its fundraising in order to compete locally and nationally. Since the debate team does not get an automatic budget, they start each year with zero funding and request cash from the Associated Students.

The A.S. sponsors the debate team and covers half of the costs each semester. For the USU tournament, the A.S. paid $3,400 of the approximate $8,000 cost.

"Without the Associated Students, we could not have kept up," said Brown.

The debate team changed their team's name from the SMC Forensics to the Corsair Debate Team on their new sweatshirts and t-shirts. "It's to reflect our appreciation to the entire A.S. body and A.S. government," said Gabriel Avila, a debate team member.

Along with the AS sponsorship, the Global Council granted the debate team $3,000 for the tournament. The debate team's students pitched in their own money as well, and hosted fundraisers, such as bake sales. All these various resources helped with airfare, hotel, and other amenities, needed to compete at the tournament.

The team consists of 10 SMC students. According to Brown, they refrain from advertising because they fear that if they recruit more students, than the funding won't be there to support them all.

Despite this past weekend's loss, the debate and speech team remains thankful for Brown's contributions as coach.

"Professor Brown has given us the passion to go forward and succeed to our fullest potential. I have no doubt that SMC debate team will be winning many tournaments in the very near future," said Allahyar.