Room for debate

New team revives a TCU tradition that dates back to the early 1900s.

Room for debate

Jaclyn Cravello ’15 prepares for an upcoming competition at a debate team meeting. The TCU debate program offers parliamentary-style debate, which emphasizes being well-informed about current events and arguing overarching issues. (Photos by Carolyn Cruz)

Room for debate

New team revives a TCU tradition that dates back to the early 1900s.

It just formed last fall, but already the TCU Debate Team is scoring big.

Jason Lam, a senior actuarial math major from Chicago, won first place as Top Speaker in Parliamentary Debate at the Texas Two-Step Debate Tournament, a two-day competition in early February. Lam and teammate Kathleen D’Urso a freshman political science major from Mahwah, N.J. took second place in Parliamentary Debate.

Jaclyn Cravello, a freshman political science major from Manhattan Beach, Calif., competed in Dramatic Interpretation and advanced to the final round, earning seventh place.

It was an auspicious start to what team adviser Carrie Moore, a lecturer in communication studies, says is a new debating tradition on campus.

“TCU has renewed focus on having students research, compose and form persuasive arguments,” she says. “It directly fits with the university mission statement of educating individuals to think and act as ethical, responsible citizens in the global community.”

The debate program currently offers parliamentary-style debate, which places emphasis on being well informed about current events and arguing overarching issues.

PhotoMoore requires team members to read The New York Times and Wall Street Journal as well as a variety of journals and international publications. They meet twice a week and stage mock debates to prepare for upcoming tournaments.

“It’s been a real challenge,” Cravello says. “You have to be able to justify both sides of an argument and be up to date on current events.”

TCU has enjoyed a dynamic debating tradition that can be traced through Horned Frog yearbooks going back to the early 1900s. In 1912, TCU organized the Texas Inter-Collegiate Debating League with Trinity University and Southwestern University.

Moore says that debating tradition faded away in the 1970s and might have stayed that way if not for a chance encounter she had with Provost Nowell Donovan at a “Dancing With the Frogs” fundraiser.

“We started talking and we found this mutual passion for speech and debate,” Moore says. “He encouraged me to look into forming a program.”

Last year she posted announcements to recruit members, which caught the eye of several students, including Elyse Menger, a senior communication studies major from Thousand Oaks, Calif.

Photo“I wish I could have been on a debate team earlier, before my senior year, but I’m just glad to be able to work it in now,” she says.

Menger recruited D’Urso, who had never debated competitively before.

“Speaking in public has always been a problem for me so I wanted to do this to improve that,” D’Urso says.

The team is recruiting members for next year and Moore says she’s already heard from incoming freshmen active in the high school forensics programs.

That’s how Lam got started.

“I hadn’t realized how much I missed this,” he says. “It’s definitely one of my favorite activities I’ve done here,” he says. “I’m still waiting for that perfect round.”