Hillsdale College’s Mock Trial and Debate teams will face major changes this competition season because of the ongoing pandemic.
Students usually travel multiple times each semester to attend off-campus events. This year, prevention measures have restricted campuses across the nation, forcing students to attend rounds via Zoom.
“This tournament season is a lot different because we’re not traveling, at least for the fall semester,” said Matthew Doggett, assistant professor of speech and director of debate. “We’ll still have rooms reserved for debate, but debaters will be isolated during preliminary rounds and we’re limiting spectators for other rounds.”
Doggett said the team hopes to attend in-person tournaments in the spring, although many tournaments will still use Zoom for debate rounds. Colleges may still have restrictions in place, limiting the number of off-campus tournaments debaters can attend.
Debaters had success at an online tournament in June, despite the changed format.
“I still had the academic experience, the rounds were fine, and the technology worked smoothly,” said Katrina Torose, a senior on the debate team. “The only thing that was really missing was the social aspect.”
Both the Mock Trial and Debate teams plan to host more activities for students to encourage comradery.
“We’re making a more active effort to meet the new team members this year and hosting small get-to-know-you events to replace the team bonding that usually happens during tournaments,” Torose said.
Mock trials will remain online for the entire competition season, although mock trial coach and Hillsdale Professor Jonathan Church said the team will travel to off-campus locations in the spring to get students in the competition mindset.
Church said the team will also have a retreat for new and returning members in the next few weeks.
“Usually we reserve this retreat for returning members, but we pushed it back so new members will get the team bonding experience,” Church said.
Despite the setback of online competitions, Church said he is excited about online tournaments. Students participating in mock trial will have the opportunity to attend nine invitational tournaments hosted on Zoom by Yale, the University of Arizona, and other competitive colleges.
“This invitational tournament schedule is a very strong lineup that may not have been possible if we had to drive or fly to all of our tournament destinations in person,” Church said in an email.
Students said they looked forward to being able to compete this year. While they said Zoom is not ideal, they are excited to learn how to use the new format.
“I’ve competed in a physical courtroom for three years,” said Sophie Klomparens, a senior on the Mock Trial team. “As a senior, this will be a valuable opportunity to learn a new medium that is applicable to the real world.”
Members of the teams said they feel thankful to have a chance to participate in something they love.
“We’re not thrilled to be online, but we’re viewing this as positive because we can compete,” Church said. “Our goal is to be the best mock trial debate team in the country.”