An honest question landed Dordt College’s debate team in the hot seat at the 2017 National Christian College Forensics Invitational (NCCFI), held March 18-20.
“Are you guys ready?”
Addressed at the opposing team, a novice co-ed duo from Colorado Christian University, these four words were the first words to come out of Joshua Dorsett’s mouth during the round.
Dorsett and partner Harrison Burns are both freshman novice participants on the Dordt College Debate team. The debate, based on the resolution “This House would adopt the Benedictine option,” proved messy, due mostly to the obvious fact that the CCU team must have been unfamiliar with St. Benedict, Benedictine Monks and eggs benedict, for that matter.
Dordt brought five teams to Phoenix for this year’s NCCFI tournament: two varsity teams, two JV teams and two novice teams. While teams are generally made of pairs, the other novice “team” only included a single member: Tony Zou.
Zou, a Dordt sophomore, had to debate solo because no one else from Dordt could attend the tournament and no other school was willing to force one of their team members to be partners with a Dordt student.
“While listening to myself talk was a big plus, earning double the speaker points was the real advantage,” Zou said. “I could have been in the running for top novice speaker if Josh hadn’t ruined everything.”
This isn’t the first time Dorsett has been in trouble for his language. At a debate earlier in the year, Dorsett used the word “middleman” during a debate. The opposing team claimed abuse, stating that the word “middleman” assumes the gender of the subject and upholds heteronormative constructs.
Caeden Tinklenberg, a varsity debater, said some debate rounds are decided based on which of the two teams is best at remaining gender neutral in their terminology. “It can be quite a challenge,” said Tinklenberg. “One little pronoun can kill any chance of winning.”
Some schools and teams are more repulsed by heteronormative and binary gender language than others. Grand Canyon University, the hosts of this year’s NCCFI tournament, does not take assumptions lightly. However, GCU assistant coach Michael Dvorak, who judged the debate round between Dorsett/Burns and CCU, graciously addressed the pair’s faux pas. When providing feedback after the round, he reminded Dorsett that when competing against a female always use gender neutral pronouns. Dvorak then blushed suddenly and quickly addressed the girl from Colorado Christian, saying “I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to assume—“
“I’m a woman!” she retorted with enough indignation to singe the hair of Dvorak’s hipster beard.
“I think that would have been the end of it had Josh kept his mouth shut,” said Ben Kuiper. Kuiper, a Dordt junior, witnessed the debacle firsthand.
“I knew we were in trouble when he started to chuckle,” said Kuiper. “Josh is well-known on the team for speaking his mind without consideration of the repercussions.”
Back in the debate room, Dorsett exclaimed, “She told you!” at Dvorak. Dorsett recalls snickering at the judge, as well.
Dvorak stormed out of the room so fast that he forgot the ballot, said Kuiper, who felt compelled to chase the judge down the hallway yelling, “Sir!”
The evidence of Dordt’s flagrant lack of gender neutral noun usage was overwhelming. Between Dorsett’s “you guys,” Kuiper’s “Sir!” and another grievance involving Dordt coach Bruce Kuiper (he allegedly wrote “beginning the piece with sexual moaning is not very lady-like” on the ballot of an interpretive poetry event that he was judging), GCU’s forensic director Barry Regan had little choice but to bar Dordt from further tournament participation.
To top off the charges, it was revealed that Dordt brought only male-identifying competitors to this year’s invitational—a clear endorsement of patriarchy.
Jordan Swanson, a senior and four-year debate veteran, tried to convince the judge that he was indeed gender-fluid; brandishing his baby-like face, lack of facial hair, pip-squeaky voice and short stature as evidence of a rigorous hormone regimen he’d been on since his early adolescent years. When questioned about his suit, Swanson assured Regan that he stole the look from Hillary Clinton. Regan, who announced at the beginning of the tournament that “while Arizona went red this election, my team and I were devout Clinton voters,” was not convinced.
Michel Gomes, a junior varsity debater, saw a silver lining amidst the team’s banning.
As an international student from Senegal, Gomes doesn’t get out much. However, the curtailed tournament left an extra day in the itinerary for exploring Phoenix, and Gomes, Tinklenberg and Zou made the most of it. After sleeping in, the three rented a car from a stranger and drove to Phoenix’s Sonoran Preserve. Just after noon, the group started up the 4.7 mile Dixie Mountain Loop Trail.
“Caeden almost died,” Gomes said.
Tinklenberg made three mistakes— the first being that he allowed the group to sleep in, setting them back to start the hike at high noon.
He then made the mistake of picking an “easy” hike with very little elevation change. The problem with this choice? Such hikes have no outcroppings or sources of shade.
Tinklenberg’s third mistake was his decision to drink tea before the hike. Regular tea would have been fine, but Tinklenberg opted for sweet tea, a substance that is arguably more dehydrating than salt water.
“We stopped at least 20 times,” Zou said, “and literally every time we took a break Michel (seemingly unaffected by the heat) reminded Caeden how America’s physical education pales in comparison to that of Senegal boarding school’s, where Michael sometimes had to run for thirty minutes straight in 113 degree heat.”
Tinklenberg saw no humor in joke. “My hands were swollen to the point where I could hardly see my wedding ring under the bulges of skin,” Tinklenberg said. His Apple watch recorded a peak heart rate of 169bpm – “And I was just walking!”
The reward for spending three hours under the blistering Sonoran sun?
Authentic Moroccan cuisine at Couscous Express. As funny as the name sounds, the food tasted “legit,” according to Zou. Gomes, who found the establishment online, was delighted to discover that the owner was fluent in French (the official language of Senegal).
“It was like being back home” Gomes said. “A long hike in the desert, couscous and a francophone made Phoenix a little piece of paradise.”
Editor’s Note: All Zircon articles are the Dordt Diamond’s semi-annual homage to the time-honored, First Amendment-protected, great American tradition of satire. The literal truths of these articles are not to be taken at face value, but we hope the hidden truths allude to the absurdities of some of the realities we face in society today.