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Debate Team Takes on Competitions, Enjoys Award-Winning Season


Photo of Debate Team
Members of the Debate Team include (from left) Jasmine Turnage, Alex Orvis, Coach Jonathan Smith, Harrison Cook, Rocco Hicks and Lesleigh Sullivan.  Other members of the team are Christina Smith and Rainey Page.

JONESBORO – The seven members of the Arkansas State University Debate Team have had an award-winning season.

The team has competed at three events this fall, including the Derryberry Season Opener held in Bolivar, Mo., the DFW Swing in Fort Worth, and the Arkansas Communication and Theatre Arts Association (ACTAA) Student Congress in Little Rock.

The most recent competition, the ACTAA, was a big success for the club and its members.

“Multiple students wrote pieces of legislation and debated them and other student-written legislation in the Arkansas Senate chamber at the state Capitol. Three of the four A-State bills passed both the house and the senate and were signed in as laws of congress,” said Jasmine Turnage, co-captain of the debate team and a junior English major from Cabot.

Turnage said over the three-day tournament, their team placed first overall in senate debate.

For those unfamiliar with debate, Christina Smith, co-captain of the team, said the style they participate in most often is from the International Public Debate Association.

“You have 30 minutes to research and build your case as to why you are for or against what the topic is about. Then, you argue with your opponent for another 30 minutes as to why you are correct and why they are wrong. It can be stressful at times, but not as stressful as everyone believes it to be,” said Smith, a junior history and communication studies major from Cabot.

She said the topics used in a debate vary in subject and can range from politics to electronics.

“One of the tasks the debate team focuses on is how to build up an argument and how to present it,” Smith added.

All of the competitors are at junior-varsity level or above. Some of the team members participated in their high school debate teams, while others are new to competing.

“The team aims to educate students on both basic research and argumentation skills through the class while also allowing students the opportunity to learn and compete in different competitive debate events,” said Turnage.

Turnage said they practice during class time with interactive lectures, speaking drills and practice debates.

Of the numerous awards that the team has won this fall, several were won at their most recent event which was held Nov. 12-13.

  • Jasmine Turnage: elected the Democratic Party Leader; received Superior in Caucus, Committee, Parliamentary Procedure, and Floor Debate; was named Best Delegate from A-State and Best Overall Floor Delegate in the senate; and was the recipient of the Mary Melekian Richardson Award, which is given to the highest scoring delegate overall in senate. 

  • Christina Smith: received Superior in Caucus, Parliamentary Procedure, and Floor Debate and received the Marguerite Metcalf Award for Parliamentary Procedure. 

  • Alex Orvis, a communication studies major from Beebe, was elected the Republican Party Leader and received Excellence in Caucus.

  • Rainey Page, a sophomore social work major from Russellville, received Excellence in Committee and Floor Debate and Superior in Parliamentary Procedure.

  • Lesleigh Sullivan, a freshman criminal justice major from Little Rock, was elected President Pro Tempore in the senate; received Excellence in Caucus and Superior in Committee and Parliamentary Procedure.

  • Rocco Hicks, a sophomore political science major from Prattsville, received Excellence in Caucus and Superior in Committee. 

Students who join the team have access to priority registration, competitive scholarship opportunities, and can earn a certificate in debate and forensics. There are also travel opportunities for those who compete to regional and national competitions.