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Assistant professor Sarah Brady and members of the HU Forensic Debate Team.

Forensics Debate Team: Students Master the Great Debate

As the upcoming presidential election swiftly approaches, debates seem to be an ever-present part of American culture. However, as members of the Hampton University Forensic Debate Team have found, more exists to debate than the common notion of a fast paced, back and forth quip on various subject matters.

Forensic debate focuses on the skill and art form of oral communication. With forensic debate, students thoroughly research, practice and deliver speeches, debates, interpretations or dramatizations of literature.

HU has a rich history of debate on its campus. As far back as 1931, HU was home to the Dunbar and Douglass Literary and Debating Societies. According to the 1931 senior class yearbook, both clubs aimed to cultivate an intelligent interest in current events and to stimulate interest in forensics.

Over recent years, forensic debate fell dormant at HU. However, last year it was re-established under the Department of Fine and Performing Arts, with assistant professor Sarah Brady as advisor. The team consists of approximately six to eight consistent members.

There are several categories in which students can compete, both as a team and as an individual. With impromptu competition, students are given a quotation at the time of competition and seven minutes to prepare a speech covering several different areas of application to prove their points. With persuasive and informative competitions students choose a topic ahead of time and must prepare an eight-minute, memorized speech. Students are judged on content, organization and delivery.

The other realm of forensic debate includes the performance side, where students compete in such categories as interpretive poetry, prose, and short story. In these categories, students choose a specific piece of literary work to interpret and perform using limited body movement. "Students must become the characters and are only allowed certain movements," explained Brady.

HU students stand proudly in front of the flags of their native country.

Team members participated in their first debate competition in December at Bridgewater College in Bridgewater, Va., where one student placed third in the interpretive poetry category.

"They're very excited; even more so having competed and seeing what others have done," said Brady. According to Brady, the team is currently preparing to compete Jan. 25-27 in Maryland.

"We're a warm and welcoming team. We encourage people who may have a phobia towards public speaking to come on out and face that fear," said Brandon Hatton-Brown, a sophomore political science major from Dover, Del. Hatton-Brown serves as vice president of the team and plans to attend law school after HU. "We're all about reinforcing each others' growth."

"Everything you need to get a job, we are honing it with this team. There's great potential to go places after something like this," stated Brady.

To learn more about joining the Forensic Debate Team, please call Sarah Brady at (757) 728-6915 or visit the "HU Forensics and Debate Team" group on Facebook.

-Alison L. Phillips