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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Maestro of Dissent: Campus media should cover competitive academic clubs

Published: November 6, 2009
Section: Opinions

This past weekend at the Tufts Invitational Debate Tournament, Jack Bouchard ’10 and the Hoot Columnist Andrew Husick’ 11 broke to the octofinals round and ended up placing fifth out of 66 teams in attendance. Jack and Andrew have also placed fifth at the Smith College invitational and 11th at Harvard, one of the largest tournaments of the year. As part of Brandeis Academic Debate and Speech Society (BADASS), they are also currently ranked as the 9th best team of the year. Even though it is only the start of November, and nationals does not take place until the weekend of April 16, they have already qualified and earned a spot. So, imagine my disappointment when, despite repeated press releases and e-mails sent to the news staff of both the Justice and The Hoot, all of these incredible victories go unreported.

Next week BADASS is sending two teams (four people) to debate in Oxford, England. In December they are sending a team to debate at the world competition in Turkey. Last year BADASS had a team make the octofinals round at ‘worlds’, which was an incredible honor and success.

Indeed, this has been a long term problem I have noticed throughout my time at Brandeis. Last year BADASS had the 13th best team in the league, who earned eighth place at nationals (Dan Blynn ’09 and Rebecca Sivitz ’09) as well as the 4th placed speaker of the year (Joel Todoroff ’09). We also annually host a tournament and several public debates and demo rounds across campus and yet these often do not receive mention in the campus papers. Despite success at tournaments almost every single weekend of the semester, individuals on campus would be excused for thinking we didn’t exist

This problem does not just face the Brandeis Academic Debate and Speech Society but all of the competitive academic clubs at Brandeis. The Brandeis Mock Trial team held their invitational on campus this past weekend and one of their teams won eighth place, yet the Justice on Tuesday did not mention it. I hope that today’s Hoot carries their story or ours, but somehow I am not getting my hopes up.

BADASS does not compete for acclaim or attention from members of the Brandeis community, but it would be nice if the group’s successes were given even as much attention as a loss by any of Brandeis’ sports teams on any given day. This semester for instance, the golf team has gotten coverage for tournaments where it placed 10th out of 12th and 16th, not exactly spectacular showings.

Although debate is not exactly the same as a sport, it would be nice to have the campus excited as BADASS sends off teams to these prestigious events and brings back trophies. Moreover, some more coverage would help to motivate more people to try out debate and improve their public speaking skills. Coverage would also help to attract prospective students interested in debate to Brandeis improving the group’s renown and prestige. When students come to visit campus and open up a campus paper, they are regularly able to read about the triumphs of our athletics as well as the myriad of fantastic theatrical productions on campus, but they do not hear about academic clubs’ success. This means that those interested in these activities will often choose another school rather than Brandeis.

BADASS desires to give back to the Brandeis community as well, but cannot do so without better publicity. For the past several years, we have offered to help clubs set up and facilitate debates on campus. In particular, a health care debate this semester between the Democrats and Republicans would have been an incredible spectacle. Such events often get bogged down in logistics and poor formats, which is where we are more than willing to step in. Yet, all too often clubs considering these events shy away because they do not realize that there’s a club on campus willing to help coordinate such events. The annual Latka/Hamentashen debate has become a beloved Brandeis tradition in part because we have taken such a role. Our campus could be bettered by increased discourse and high quality debate.

The writer is the public relations director for the Brandeis Academic Debate and Speech Society.