“The UMKC Debate Team is one of the oldest student organizations on campus,” Assistant Debate Team director Malcolm Gordon said.
“The UMKC Mascot was actually drawn by Walt Disney for the Debate Team,” Gordon said.
According to the official UMKC website, “The Kangaroo issue was first brought up in 1936 when the editors of the Kansas City University newspaper decided it was time to find a mascot for, of all things, learn debate team.”
“It [the debate] was gone for a little while in the late 70s, but it was brought back in 1986 and has been consistently going since then,” Gordon said.
Since the Debate Team serves various skill levels, goals varies.
Regionally, the team has plans to divide and conquer.
“Regionally, in our conference, we try to win every tournament. All schools in the Midwest (Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and Texas) go to the same meets,” Gordon said. “We have not won a regional tournament yet, but we have placed second four times. We lost in the final round.”
Nationally, the “main goal is to get a team to qualify for the national conference,” Gordon said.
Most years, the Debate Team has qualified only one team, although two teams are allowed.
“We are looking to get back to the National Championships this year,” Gordon said.
The Debate Team is very diverse; in experience, ranging from complete novices to students on scholarships for debate. “They came to UMKC specifically for the Debate Team,” Gordon said.
“Since we are a student organization, we serve any skill level,” Gordon said. “People who have never debated before are welcome to join the team. Sometimes we will have people walk on.”
This year’s team has about 15 members.
However this number fluctuates due to some students who come only to test the waters.
Gordon’s least favorite part of debate is losing, he said, which comes with any competitive sport.
His favorite part of debate is the tight-knit community coaches and students have.
“You see the majority of the same people even though they are from across the country,” Gordon said. “You see them consistently.”
Being a part of the Debate Team takes a great deal of commitment and flexible schedule.
“We travel to about 13 to 17 tournaments a year,” Gordon said. “The season starts September and ends in March. Virtually the season is the entire school year and we have the summers off.”
The setup of the actual debate is very interesting.
“Each school is a squad,” Gordon said. “Within each squad you have a number of two-person teams.”
Every debate is two-on-two.
Teams compete against a team from a different school.
A topic is given to all the debate teams at the beginning of the year.
“One round takes about an hour and 45 minutes for the actual debating,” Gordon said. “After that you are watched by a judge and it takes them a while to deliberate. After the deliberation the teams are notified of the winner and why they were chosen.”
UMKC has gone up against teams from Dartmouth College, Harvard University, Northwestern University and the University of Kansas.
“We have been in the finals of four regional tournaments,” Gordon said.
The debate team closed out a tournament at Arizona State. For the final round, they had the first and second place team.
“In the last 25 years, we have won four National Championships,” Gordon said.
In 2007 the debate team lost in the Championship round, receiving second place at the national championship.
Due to the loss of many of the teams’ senior members, the team has had to rebuild.
“It has taken a few years,” Gordon said. “Now we have some second and third year people, so I would say we are definitely coming back.”
If you are interested in becoming involved with the UMKC Debate Team, visit studo.umkc.edu/debate to complete the online application.