The Speech and Debate Society is a highly competitive club that competes nine to 10 times out of a given year. As an example, in division three the debate club won 2nd place. They are rivals with Whitman and University of Oregon as the three most highly ranked colleges in debate. They have a “friendly rivalry” with University of Washington Bothell campus, said Denise Vaughan, a debate team coach. This is probably because she manages to coach at the University of Washington Bothell campus and here at Bellevue College as well. Competitions, according to Bradley Buta, a member of the debate club, are “fierce, but not heated.” This is a key differentiator between friendly debates and aggravated ones, the latter not present in debate clubs throughout the Northwest.
The debaters themselves make up a very diverse spectrum. Nearly 30 to 40 percent of the debate team is filled with non-native speakers. This is a tricky challenge to overcome as a debater and the results of which are publicly displayed at each debate tournament. They also currently have more females in the club than males.
Buta said one thing he learned in debate club was how to be succinct. Indeed, this is a critical component of communications in the white collar workforce as well as academia. Being succinct generally means getting the message across briefly and clearly. It can also help with writing college essays, in which a personal statement might be as few as 250 words. It is easy to think of debate club as a teacher of argumentation. But Speech and Debate Society goes far beyond that. It teaches students to harness their language skills, to identify logic not emotion and to improve their public speaking skills.
Buta mentioned that one of his favorite moments from debate club was experiencing the “clash of ideas and thoughts.” He also enjoyed learning about the logic of arguments, not just emotional fallacies. A fair amount of contestation in a given debate could be over emotional arguments and the subsequent rebuking of them. This is where it takes logic to defeat logical or emotional fallacies. Other skills that one can acquire are confidence, learning to read body language, learning to appeal to a given audience, learning to project and learning to be selective with one’s words. There are plenty of competitions to test these skills and hone them. Confidence can be attained through repetition. Learning to read body language happens in practice debates, while knowing how to appeal to a given audience is learned through competing in real debates. Learning to project can be taught from day one. Finally, learning to be selective with one’s words comes through personal dedication and practice.
Buta agreed that long-term friendships are made by joining the debate club. Connections and friendships are fostered easily. There are a number of benefits that can be attained. Speech and Debate Society meets twice a week. They meet on Tuesdays from 10:30 a.m. to 12:20 p.m. and on Wednesdays from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. in C103.