President Gary Ransdell likes to honor organizations by inviting them over to his house for dinner when their respective seasons end.
“If they win,” Ransdell said, laughing.
After claiming a championship in the American Forensic Association Individual Events Tournament, WKU’s forensics team secured a May 3 dinner date at the president’s home.
The team spent this weekend competing at another national tournament, the National Forensic Association National Tournament, where WKU entered as defending champion.
Jace Lux, first-year forensics director, said the team — which encompasses debate, public speaking and dramatic interpretation of literature — is the oldest student organization on campus.
Lux said that documents have been found about a forensics team at what is now WKU from as early as 1903. He said the team experienced a resurgence in popularity in the early 1990s.
Lux said the forensics team isn’t something students take lightly, comparing it to how athletes practice and play sports.
“They train in a different way, but they still train rigorously, and it takes a big commitment on their part,” he said.
Lux said the students on the team are all interested in a variety of different things. While some focus on public speaking, others might exclusively take part in debates or dramatic interpretations.
Sarah Rainey, a senior from Snohomish, Wash., focuses on the debate side of forensics. Rainey said she prefers debate because “it’s a constant process of updating.”
“I’ll normally put in about five hours with coaches per week, and then outside of that I have to be working on my own affirmatives and cases, and so I probably put in another good five to 10 on my own,” she said. “And then that doesn’t include tournaments.”
However, Rainey also said that the effort has “most definitely” been worth it.
Lindsey White, a freshman from Apple Valley, Minn., does interpretation of literature and a form of public speaking called after “dinner speaking,” which she referred to as “stand up with resources.”
“It’s a lot of hard work, and sometimes you have days where you’re just like, it’s too much,” White said. “But at the end of the day it is something that changes you. It makes you a better speaker and develops you as a person, so it’s worth it 100 percent.”
A rule states that each student must participate in at least three events, but they don’t have to do an event within each category.
Some juniors and seniors greatly exceed the requirement, participating in as many as eight to nine events.
“I can’t say it enough how proud I am of the preparation that these students have done,” Lux said.
He said the students have a lot of grueling work to do for national tournaments. The tournaments usually last more than four days, and 10 or 12 hours a day.
Ransdell said many on the team are on scholarship.
“I like it because it’s such a cross section of students,” he said. “We recruit them aggressively … and they cut across the college disciplines. They’re elite kids who work their tails off and succeed in high-pressure situations.”