Tension over debate tournament eases
November 11, 2009
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With a new name, Whitman’s annual debate tournament for high school students sought a new image on campus, improving organization of the debaters to decrease the stress Whitman students and staff had noted their presence caused in previous years.
Now called the Remy Wilson High School Speech Tournament, the name was changed to honor the woman who developed the tournament as coach and director of forensics at Whitman from 1969 to 1980. This year’s tournament featured fewer debaters, improvements to the programs that schedule and track debates and an increased number of the posters placed around campus to direct debaters.
Even Whitman students who only had experienced one year of the tournament noticed the decreased disruption.
“It was definitely less invasive than last year; the only thing I really noticed this year was all the posters,” said sophomore Jessica Matresse.
The 468 high school debaters, less than the past average, took notice of the additional posters too; though not all of the high school students appreciated them.
“I find the sheer number of pink slips to be insulting,” an anonymous debater wrote on one of the ubiquitous posters, which appeared every few feet in locations holding many debaters such as Reid.
That remark aside, the tournament proceeded smoothly overall, with the participants also appreciating new features that enhanced the tournament’s management.
“This [tournament] didn’t have many problems and I really liked being able to check my results on-line,” said second-time tournament participant Maureen Page, a sophomore from Willamette High School in Eugene, Ore. Page also expressed her and her teammates’ appreciation of how the tournament was run in a timely manner.
The prompt proceedings were enabled in part by updates made to the two computer programs Whitman College Debate Coach Jim Hanson uses to match up the debate pairings and notify them of their standings.
“I hate to brag but . . . I’m pretty proud of the improvements that have been made,” said Hanson, who worked to enhance the computer programs himself.
With the aid of the programs the debate tournament was able to smoothly schedule approximately 100 rooms holding debates every two hours.
“Basically, I love the fact that I get to stay in my office,” said Hanson, who saw to the posting of results from the comfort of his Hunter Conservatory office.
High school students competed in various styles of debate before 37 judges from the Whitman College debate team. In addition to the debates, the students managed to find time to enjoy the campus. High school first-years Michael Skidmore and Mathew Knudsen from Willamette proudly sported bow-ties purchased at the Whitman bookstore.
Hanson was proud of the results made possible by the help of Whitman students from the debate team and Reid staff members, along with the updated programs.
“Every year I have things that I want to fix. This year though they were a lot less major.”
Debate coach Andre Cossette from Gonzaga Prep High School in Spokane, who has brought teams to the tournament for over 20 years, applauded the event’s success.
“It’s the biggest and best tournament in the whole northwest. It’s well-run and the tournament staff is friendly,” Cossette said.