Speech and Debate Club Hopes to Persuade More Students to Join

A group of students at Eastern Washington University have organized something you may have assumed already existed on campus—a speech and debate team. With a couple of tournaments and a lot of learning under their belts, they’re now looking for additional Eagles to expand the team’s membership in the 2020–2021 school year.

EWU’s first Speech and Debate Club started in the fall when debate devotee Miranda Reed arrived on campus only to discover the university didn’t have a team. Reed says she had been a debater in high school and loved it.

“Having a team is really great because when you practice you get to give and receive feedback,” says Reed, a freshman who is studying marketing and business at Eastern. “And you get to do that in a safe environment rather in front of a whole class.”

Miranda Reed, freshman; Nemico Tagalag, freshman; Gabe Hernandez, junior; and Karlee Van De Venter, freshman attend a speech and debate competition at Lower Columbia College in December.

The club meets once a week to work on their speech and debate skills and prepare for upcoming tournaments. The team has participated in two tournaments thus far, one at Whitworth University in October and another, in December, at Lower Columbia College in Longview, Washington. Reed, who serves as the club president, says the tournaments served as a learning experience for the group. Now, with no additional competitions planned for the rest of the academic year, the team is busy practicing for next fall by simulating tournament debate rounds, critiquing each other’s speeches and working on communication and body language techniques.

“When we practice speeches, we get to look at each other’s habits,” says Nemico Tagalag, an EWU freshman studying political science. “You can notice if somebody’s putting their hands in their pockets, pacing while speaking, or saying ‘um,’ ‘like’ or ‘as’ a lot. Those are some things we can really focus on and they’re great for general communications skills.”

The current club members are also holding recruitment events to encourage more people to join the team. They’re promoting the benefits of debate while dispelling some of the myths.

“People think, ‘If I join the debate team I’m just going to have to argue with people all the time,’” says freshman Karlee Van De Venter. “That’s not really the case. There’s so much that’s not arguing. If that’s not what you’re into, we have so many other things for you to do.”

Van De Venter says she joined the club because she is majoring in journalism and wants to improve her communications and research skills. Fellow teammate Gabe Hernandez, a junior majoring in criminal justice, agrees. He says there are benefits for students in all majors.

“The reason I’m doing it is to help with my oratory and argumentative skills because I hope to go to law school,” he says. “It’s great experience to be able to argue something that you don’t necessarily know a whole lot about, or even agree with.”

Speech and debate is a student-run club at Eastern, which means there are no academic or class requirements for members. You don’t even have to have prior speech and debate experience. The current members stress that each member can choose to participate however they would like. Some members, for example, attend meetings to work on their own skills and help support the team during practice sessions, but choose not to compete in tournaments.

The cost to attend a tournament can range from $10 to $200 per member depending on travel costs. Next year the club hopes to participate in at least five tournaments. They hope a larger team and fundraising events will help them lower the individual costs.

If you are interested in joining, or would like to learn more, you can attend a meeting on Wednesdays at 7 p.m., in Patterson Hall 149. Reed says it could be an important next step in your future.

“Debate looks great on applications,” she says. “If an employer sees debate, they are going to know that you know how to communicate with people, that you are open to new ideas and able to present yourself professionally.”

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