Forensics seeks funding after tournament success

Members of the Missouri Southern Forensics team couldn’t believe the letter they received from the International Grant Committee saying their request for funding was denied.

The team grabbed two first place finishes two years in a row at the International Forensics Association’s annual competition. When they requested funding for the upcoming third year, they thought the request was, without a doubt, a shoe-in.

“I was really surprised when I got the letter,” said Kelly Larson, director of forensics. “Last year we filled out an international grant, and we won it.”

Larson said there were two possible reasons for the denial.

“They probably didn’t understand the amount of time and work it takes,” Larson said. “During the week, students are working 15-20 hours, and during tournaments they work 12-hour days.”

The other reason for the denial, in Larson’s opinion, is how some of the criteria on the grant application changed.

Ten groups applied for the grant, the forensics squad placed last.

“These international competitions showcase American debate,” he said. “If you can get there, you can compete with the big boys.”

In the letter, the committee said the proposal lacked “academic rigor.”

That statement made many students on the team upset.

“It’s disappointing,” said Tyler Coble, sophomore science and psychology major. “They said it had no academic rigor, but debate is academics in action.”

Coble said he didn’t understand the decision after all the debate team had accomplished during the past couple of years.

“We established a name for Missouri Southern on the debate circuit,” Coble said.

Dr. Chad Stebbins, chairman of the International Grant Committee, said the final decision had nothing to do with the team’s success, rather the application was the deciding factor.

“It may have been a worthwhile academic trip, but the application did not demonstrate that,” Stebbins said.

He said there were a number of faults in the application, which gave the committee reason for the denial. One of the main reasons was how the committee thought the forensics team’s purpose seemed more related to competition than to the course itself.

“They didn’t provide a link between the itinerary and the course objectives,” Stebbins said.

Larson went to Dr. J.R. Moorman, department head of communications, about the situation. Moorman passed it on to Dr. John Messick, dean of the school of arts and science. It was here where the team received money from the dean’s international institute fund.

“The dean puts a high priority on forensics,” Larson said.

The group received $3,000 and will use the money for airfare and hotel costs. The five teammates traveling to Canada will have to pick up the rest of the tab.

Although Coble and other teammates were upset about the initial grant denial, they are now focusing on the upcoming competition.

“We’re looking forward to the experience,” Coble said. “The variety of competition is better.”