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Hills­dale’s Mock Trial Team.

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.”