What’s the deal with forensics?

Briana Gardner — Staff Writer 

Whether we are in athletics, band, or another extracurricular, surely we can all relate to the desire for more funding for our programs. The desire is relatable and generally understandable. New uniforms, bigger scholarships, or advanced technology all contribute to the success and competitive nature of our activities. But where is the need greatest? To me, the answer lies in academic activities, such as forensics. 

Dordt University publishes a catalog each year, which not only includes a thorough list of finances and academic programs but also the university’s athletic and extracurricular opportunities. 

Athletics, band, and clubs are all cited on this list, but one key program receives no attention: forensics. Since it is not listed under the campus activity tab, students wanting information on this club must scroll to the catalog’s scholarship section, where it is buried among a slew of extracurricular scholarships. 

According to the catalog, students earn $1,000 to $3,000 each year, which is renewable based on the student’s GPA, club performance, and as determined by the club’s head, Bruce Kuiper, “in consultation with other coaches.” 

Students in the club choose from a comprehensive list of speech and debate styles. Dramatic interpretation, prose, communication analysis, persuasive, extemporaneous, parliamentary debate, and Lincoln-Douglas are a few examples. 

For some students, developing a speech can take weeks before they are ready to present it for feedback or submission at a tournament. Due to the competitive nature and time commitment of the club, $1,000 to $3,000 does not seem like a strong enough incentive, nor does it seem like a fair amount when compared to other programs on campus. 

So, why does the program receive less money? First, it is a fairly recent addition to campus and does not impact the majority of the student body. Less than two percent of students compete in the forensics club, and many others are not aware of the club’s existence. 

Furthermore, Dordt must compete with other universities, meaning they have to be strategic in their spending, investing their funds in programs that are going to impact a larger number of students, spending money on the programs students are interested in competing in or attending. These programs are ones that will draw attention to Dordt’s campus and provide incentives for students to enroll. 

The fact that forensics is not a popular extracurricular is not Dordt’s fault. It is a cultural issue, with society placing emphasis on college athletics above all else. 

However, Dordt’s mission statement says, “Dordt equips students, alumni, and the broader community to work effectively toward Christ-centered renewal in all aspects of contemporary life.” 

Suppose Dordt truly exists as a university dedicated to equipping its students in all aspects of life. In that case, we want to draw attention to these specific facets of our school to promote their effects. As a Reformed institution, Dordt believes all vocations, lifestyles, and majors are equal. Why then, are extracurriculars any different? 

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