The Towerlight - November 18, 2004

Speech, debate teams wrap crowd in rhetoric

by Kristi Funderburk, Photo by Lisa Johnson
November 18, 2004


On Monday and Tuesday night, Towson’s speech and debate team demonstrated its talent to an audience of students in the Susquehanna Terrace. 

The Speech and Debate Program and department of mass communication and communication studies sponsored both the public debate exhibition “Towson Speaks” as well as “Speak Out: A Speech and Drama Hour.”

“We are the embodiment of civic engagement,” said Darren Goins, director for the speech and debate team.

In the debate team’s Monday night presentation, participants offered opposing arguments for nuclear power. 

The following evening, the speech team offered members to present their pieces based on ideas and stories. 

Moderator Trinya Smith, an Urban Debate League Scholar at Towson, introduced the debate on Monday.

The UDL is the third section of the speech and debate program where deliberation is brought to the inner city.

In the League, words are taught to be “a better solution than weapons,” Goins explained.

Brandy Weathers, a junior political science major, was the first affirmative speaker of the evening. 

Weathers said that microwaves emit just as much radiation as a nuclear power plant, but most people have enough faith in microwaves to have them in their homes.

Barbora Ondruskova, a political science major and first year international student from Slovakia, is an International Debate Scholar and gave Weathers’ cross-examination.

Ondruskova asked Weathers if she believed in safe sex.

“Just because I use my microwave doesn’t mean I think it’s safe,” Ondruskova said. “If I used a condom, when I would, I know it doesn’t work 100 percent, but we use condoms anyway.”

After one side was presented, an opposing speaker gave their position and was cross-examined.

First year debater Lawrence Grandpre, a sophomore political science major, opposed nuclear power and supported much of his speech with scholarly quotes.

His cause was safety for the people seeing a nuclear plant as a “glaring bull’s eye for enemies of America.”

“It takes just one Homer Simpson… and we’re all eating three-eyed fish for the rest of our lives,” he said.

Audience member April Selden, a senior mass communication major, appreciated Grandpre’s team’s take on the subject.

“I didn’t feel [the affirmative] expressed the seriousness of the matter like the negative side did,” she said.

Several participants of the debate are international students, which Goins said adds to the program.

“It brings in a different perspective,” he said.  “Our students are able to understand the micro and the macro level issues… because they’ve lived in and near some of the countries that U.S. students have only read about.”

The debate continued through four more speakers: Bryce Girardi, a senior communication studies major, and Camelia Hostinar, a psychology major and first year international student from Romania, both spoke for the affirmative. 

Ondruskova and Normunds Pelmens, a sophomore from Latvia and a member of the international debate team, were the final two members of the opposition.

Ondruskova closed the debate noting the seriousness of the issue.

“These plants will kill millions. This is not funny; this is not deciding what you’re eating for dinner,” she said.

For the affirmative, Hostinar’s regular partner, Simonida Subontic, a first year international debate scholar from Montenegro, was not one of the six presenters, but together they are ranked in the top 10 of all the first year debaters in the country.

In Hostinar’s presentation she said people have an “irrational fear with nuclear power” leading the public to fall into a “good or bad discourse.”

Audience member Seldon admitted to falling into that trap.

 “We all have a tendency to think nuclear is bad, but after hearing [the affirmative] speak it made me think twice,” she said.

Thinking twice was something Chris Baron, mass communication and communication studies professor and Towson debate coach, said was the problem.

“The debate is over what to switch to, but the status quo continues to debate about it,” Baron said. “It’s something we should all be invested in.”

While neither side was presented as a winner, a class in attendance held ballots to determine the quality of performance.

Linnea Davis, a senior communication studies major, said the event should prove helpful.

“In class we have to do a debate, so this exposed us to debates because before I did not know exactly how a debate was run,” Davis said.  

While the debate portion ended Monday evening, the speech team had seven presentations waiting for Tuesday’s audience.

Four speeches were prose, one was critical analysis, one was an after-dinner speech and one was a dramatic interpretation.

Sophomore Lauren Ferretti said the preparation for the speech took most of the summer to complete. Her prose was on Meg Waltzier’s book, “The Wife.”

“You read the book, then you cut the book so it makes sense to the audience and brings the message,” Ferretti said. “You want to get emotion out of you and the audience.”

Each speech, not dependent on the type, was 10 minutes. The speakers are expected to cut or add depending on how long the piece is.

Kate Jones, the final speaker and senior communication studies major, exhibited “The Eight: The Reindeer Monologues” by Jeff Goode in a Drama Interpretation.

Jones role-played the part of Vixen, the female reindeer who claimed rape by Saint Nick. Lines like “Ho Ho Ho CNN,” relating to Vixen lying for media attention, kept audience attention throughout.

“This event continues to get stronger as we do it,” Goins said. “The level of talent and beauty of our students’ work continues to amaze me.”

This is the third semester the speech team has held a performance hour.

A similar event called “Speak Up” will take place in the spring.  For debate this spring, Towson and Cambridge will compete on campus. In May, Public Debate Month, Goins hopes to showcase the work of UDL participants.

Both speech and debate teams attend up to 20 competitions a year. Speech competes in public speaking, performance of literature, and limited preparation speaking. For policy debate, one topic is given for the whole year and students research both sides of the debate.

The debate team competes in states such as Virginia, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

This year Nationals will be in Georgia, San Francisco and Washington State.

Speech has nationals in Ohio and Kansas.