Forensics Team Returns to Campus

After a spring semester spent on hiatus, the UIS Speech and Debate Team is back for this competition season with a new coach.

Timothy Bill, a faculty member in the Department Communication was hired over the summer to take over coaching. Prior to this, he worked at the University of Kentucky, growing the team from nonexistence to one of the top ten teams in the nation. He hopes to do the same at UIS. “This semester’s been a lot of groundwork -of updating the website, social media accounts for the team, recruiting events such as the Involvement Expo earlier this year, [and] meeting with students who are interested,” Bill said.

He also emphasized that it is difficult to get a team started from scratch, as there were not students on the team at the beginning of the semester. However, the potential at the university is “incredible,” he added. “There’s been a push from community, from students to administration and faculty to get another team going, to have a strong, performing team at UIS,” Bill said.

All but one of the students on the team had no previous speech experience, so he began coaching with the very basics: what goes into a persuasive speech, how to debate, and how to put a poetry performance together. “It will take us a little bit to get our legs underneath us and start growing as a team and getting better,” Bill stated. “[But] it’s worth it. That investment really pays off in the long run.” Speech topics cover a wide range of themes, including anything from rape culture on campus to veganism to resources for those coming back from the military. “They choose the topics –I want them to write about something they’re passionate about,” Bill said.

He also said because the team is small, members have gotten a chance to get to know each other better. “I think in part, because so many team members don’t have any experience, they’ve sort of banded together in sort of a ‘let’s give this a try and see what it’s all about’ [way],” Bill commented. “It’s inspiring to be around people with similar interests or similar concerns about where the country’s at.” The speeches which students are working on now will be the same ones they compete with at nationals in New York.

Sarah Burris, a criminal justice major graduating next fall, is giving a speech on victims of domestic violence in rural areas. “I can write papers, but turning it into something that has to be spoken word is a little bit different,” she said.

She said Bill has helped her turn what she wrote into a speech, and additionally he helped her focus on what she needed to do to get better. Burris was even able to go to a tournament just to observe. “I think we’ll be good as a team, the very few of us that there are,” Burris stated. “They’re very easy to get along with. It’s nice having other people who are new to it just like I am.”

As a junior communication major, Cameron Rexroad, hopes to speak out on gender communication, women’s rights, and rape culture. For her, speech and debate team is the perfect platform to practice that. “My first speech that I’m doing is about teaching consent to small children in a non-sexual way, and how we can start programming that into kids from the ages of one and onward,” she said.

For Rexroad, it feels good knowing that she is getting an important point across with her speech. “[I feel like] I’m saying something that matters, and that people want to listen to the things that I’m saying,” Rexroad said.

Being on speech team has also given Rexroad the chance to bond with her teammates. “We definitely shared some personal stories just because of the sensitive nature of a lot of our topics,” Rexroad said.