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The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Lively, encouraging atmosphere motivates debate team to break 16

Lee Frank
Debate partners Grace McManus and Neymara Freeman prepare their speech on Afro-futurism for their upcoming tournament on Sept. 23-24.

“When I got here, there were three people in the debate team, and right now, we have over 20,” debate director Phillip Samuels said.

Samuels said that the growth of the debate team is due to the inclusive atmosphere that he strives to maintain.

“The most important thing to me, as the director, is access,” he said. “I want anybody who wants to do it, who feels like they could be good at it, or just wants to know. I want them to be able to stop by and feel like they have an opportunity to be a part of it all.”

Thomas Babcock, a senior majoring in political science, echoed Samuels comments on the access of the group.

“I think a lot of people are scared of debate because they think that, you know, if they’re new, they can’t get involved or if they didn’t have previous experience,” Thomas said. 

The team accepts a variety of members, from inexperienced debaters to veterans.

“Wichita State debate caters to all experience levels,” Thomas said. “We will travel you to any tournament and all the tournaments and place you in divisions with people who have just as much experience as you, and there’s a lot to gain from that.”

Samuels also said the students contribute to the environment within the debate room.

“(The students) work hard because they want to, so it’s really, like, a really good fun atmosphere overall, and everybody’s welcome,” he said.

Travis Babcock, a senior majoring in political science and Thomas’ brother, said the team celebrates each other and “roots each other on.”

“There’s definitely a good ethic of work for the team,” Travis said.

Prestigious debaters dedicate a lot of their time to the debate team, according to Thomas.

“I’d say on any given average week, Travis, my twin brother, and I probably put in close to 20 hours of … researching for debate, and … another five of doing practice today to practice speeches,” Thomas said. 

Thomas said the number of hours goes up, when preparing for a tournament.

Despite the busy tournament hours, junior psychology major Miguel Molina Chavez highlighted the flexibility within debate.

“It can be pretty intrusive in your schedule, but it’s honestly a really nice break,” he said. “Debate is super flexible in terms of the prep, the preparing for the tournaments, because you can kind of work on your own time and kind of pace yourself.”

The debate team at WSU has been hard at work preparing for the debate tournament in Chicago this weekend.

“I like to think we’re competitive with all the best schools. We have been over the last two years,” said Phillip Samuels, assistant professor and director of debate. 

He said there has been a lot of growth in both competition and students since he took over the debate team three years ago.

The debate team as a whole hopes to break the top 16, meaning they will rank 16th place or higher in the National Debate Tournament (NDT) this year. This will top their achievements from last year.

“Last year, we had two teams at the NDT, which is very tough to do,” Samuels said. “It’s the first time Wichita State’s done it in over 30 years, and they both did exceedingly well.”

Samuels said the students are learning what it takes — and doing it.

“I think the students, hopefully, are buying into what it takes to be successful and what we need to do,” he said.

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About the Contributors
Genesis Merriett
Genesis Merriett, Reporter
Genesis Merriett is a first-year reporter for The Sunflower. She is a sophomore majoring in mathematics, however, Merriett enjoys writing as well. She is originally from Missouri, but lived in Colorado for most of her life until moving to Wichita five years ago. Additionally, she enjoys drawing, crochet and exploring new places in her free time.
Lee Frank
Lee Frank, Former photographer
Lee Frank was a photographer for The Sunflower.

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