Debate Team: Club and Independent Study

The award-winning debate team at California Lutheran University is now being offered as both a club and an independent study course.

“Students actually do the field work of going to the debate tournaments, going to meetings and then write or examine some issue or importance, or academic application of debate. It’s kind of like a two part system,” said adjunct communication Professor and team Adviser Jennifer Marshall.

Marshall said students’ research for the class can be done in a variety of approaches.

“We have one student doing an ethnography about their experience in the debate world. Another student is taking a look at why debate is an important activity for college students,” Marshall said.

Team president Jewel Soiland is writing a debate manual for her independent study project, which can be used for future teams at Cal Lutheran to reference.

The debate team manual is intended to be a “textbook for debate students based off of resources you can find on debate and argumentation, rhetoric and specific things that I’ve learned in the decades I’ve been involved in debate,” Jewel Soiland said.

The team also placed in the gold round during competitions in both fall and spring semesters.

Marshall said members Dakota Allen and Rose Soiland placed first in the novice division at the fall championships, while Jewel Soiland and Kaitlyn O’Gara placed second in the gold round at the last competition at Orange Coast College.

“The style that we do is based off of British Parliament. We have two teams of two where one is government and one is opposition. Every round you have a new resolution just like in Parliament or Congress. We try to be student liaisons and try and advocate for a position or policy,” Jewel Soiland said.

The topics change every round, usually based off of current events. For this competition where the Cal Lutheran team placed, “the last debate was on children and vaccinations, whether all children should be vaccinated,” O’Gara said.

The team meets every Monday 5 – 6:30 p.m. in Peters 105 to practice and prepare for their competitions.

“We are small but mighty. We have about six people who regularly attend, and then because it’s a club it’s open to anybody. We do practice rounds, we teach them the important terms and terminologies, where they really learn how to debate,” Marshall said.

To prepare, the team practices a range of skills specific to debate, including case construction, rhetoric, critical thinking strategy, organization and time management, Jewel Soiland said.

As of last year, the team has also been able to give out debate scholarships to students.

“We were able to offer two scholarships for about $5,000 each to students who have either debated or are interested in debate, which has been a really amazing opportunity because we’re really trying to grow the program,” Marshall said.

Marshall also said debating is great preparation for the professional world after college.

“It’s really an activity of critical thinking,” Jewel Soiland said. “Public speaking and communication skills, having the ability to be clear in a message you want to portray, and just having something to say and being able to say it with eloquence.”

Rebecca Austin
Staff Writer