After an eight year absence the Fresno State Barking Bulldog Debate team returns to campus and is ready to compete with teams from around the country. New coach Kevin Kuswa plans on making the team one of the best in the California State University system.
“We are very proud to be able to bring back the team. We were able to bring it back because we were finally able to hire a coach. The way it worked is every year the university tells specific departments that they can hire a few professors. This year the communications department was able to hire some and so we hired a coach,” said Communications Department Chair Doug Fraleigh.
The team is fully funded through the university. Part of the funding comes through what are called Instructionally Related Activities funds. The team is housed in the communications department.
“The great thing about the team is that no experience is needed. It is open to people of all majors and all levels of experience,” said Kuswa. “There are also no conferences in debate and you can compete with the Dukes of the world all the way to community colleges so it’s truly open.”
Kuswa was a National Debate Tournament Championship debater for Georgetown University and also won another championship as a coach for Dartmouth University. Also helping Kuswa with the team will be communications professor Chris Andrade, who teaches argumentation and Doug Fraleigh the current communications department chair and coach of the team from 1990 until it was cut in 2003.
Kuswa will teach debate in two classes. The classes that will be offered for interested debaters will be Communications 15 for beginners and Communications 115 for those who have previous debate background.
The captain of this years team is psychology major Carla Caffrey-Casiano. “The thing I love about debate is seeing the different views and having to adapt to other views and be able to talk about opposing views. I like the competition and I am very passionate about debate,” said Caffrey-Casiano.
Debate is a highly competitive activity in which teams of two debate a specific topic and are judged at the end. In each debate there are two sides, the affirmative and the negative. Each side debates each other in what is called a round, which typically lasts two hours. The two styles of debate that Fresno State competes in are Public Debate and Policy Debate. There are also divisions for people of all experience levels. The three levels are novice, junior varsity, and varsity.
Public Debate is the specific style where students debate on campus in the Free Speech area. In the fall semester there will be two main public debates. One will be about immigration and the second urban regional transformation. The public debate teams debate their specific topic against other students and members of the team.
Policy Debate is a highly competitive style of intercollegiate debate where teams debate each other at tournaments held at schools around the nation. Each tournament tends to run two to three days. Policy debate is highly research oriented and the team gathers research from various places and then combine it for the team to share.
The two big tournaments for policy debate are Cross Examination Debate Association National Championship and the National Debate Tournament, which is the most prestigious. The NDT is an invite only tournament in which only 64 teams are invited to compete. The CEDA is Policy Debates version of college basketball’s National Invitational Tournament. More than 200 schools compete at the CEDA tournament.
“This year we are planning on competing at the CEDA tournament and in a couple years I believe we will be able to compete in the NDT,” said Kuswa.
Each debate season there is a new topic for the year. This years topic is “The United States Federal Government Should Substantially Increase Democracy Assistance in One or More of the Following; Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, Syria, Libya, Yemen.”
The original debate team was around for a little more than 50 years starting sometime in the early 1950’s and ending in 2003. The debate team was cut in 2003 due to a combination of budgets cuts and then director of forensics Doug Fraleigh left the position to take over as the undergraduate advisor for the department of communications.
The original debate team was highly competitive and one of the top teams in the CSU system. They consistently finished top five and the goal for the team is to return to that level of success.