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A statement from Towson University regarding the forensics program

Update: A statement from Timothy Chandler, Towson University Provost, is now available. 

Towson University is proud of the accomplishments of its 50-year-old forensics program. This academic program’s success has enabled the current speech and debate team to become one of the best in the country, led by coaches with extensive and distinguished careers in forensics.

As an institution we honor and respect freedom of speech. The allegations made against Towson University and its faculty are taken very seriously. Earlier this semester, Towson swiftly investigated and addressed all concerns brought to our attention from members of the debate team. There were no findings that warranted further investigation, sanctions or firings.

The current controversy surrounding the decision about whether or not the debate team should, or could, participate in Harvard University’s tournament has been instigated by two alumni members of the debate team. They are not directly involved in this academic program—nor were they involved in the conversations or decisions about the debate team’s competition schedule.

There has been a lot of misinformation circulating on social media from these two alumni of the debate team. Here are the facts:

  • In consultation with their coach, the current debate team members have had full participation in their competition schedule. This level of participation is exceptional and indicative of the inclusive leadership style of this academic program.
  • The forensics program uses a specific set of criteria to determine the debate team’s competition schedule, which is as follows:
    • Competitiveness: Selecting venues and competition most advantageous to the team’s ability and likelihood of success.
    • Prestige: Choosing regional or national tournaments in line with the team’s ability and experience.
    • Schedule and Academic Load: Recognizing that these team members are students first, we must ensure their positive academic and personal development while thinking strategically about travel and classroom schedules.
    • Debate Style and Content: Selecting tournaments that are consistent with the “K-performative” style of the current team members.
    • Budget: Making financial decisions that support competitiveness and success while retaining some flexibility for contingencies or future invitations to competition.
  • Using these criteria, the team supported the original competition schedule for this academic year—which never included Harvard:
    • Towson University Speech and Debate Competition Schedule*
      • Henry Clay Debate Tournament at the University of Kentucky (Oct. 5-7)
      • Franklin R. Shirley Classic at Wake Forest University (Nov. 15-19)
      • USC Allan Nichols Debate Tournament at the University of Southern California (Jan. 3-6)
      • California State University Fullerton Kathryn Y. Klassic Debate Tournament (Jan. 8-10)
      • University of Texas Debate Tournament (Feb. 8-10)
      • District VII NDT Qualifying Tournament at the University of Mary Washington (Feb. 22-23)
      • Cross Examination Debate Association National Tournament at Indiana University (Mar. 21-25)
      • National Debate Tournament at Indiana University (Mar. 28-31)
      • * Additional travel time is not included in these dates
  • Furthermore, when the group revisited the schedule to consider replacing the planned California tournament held in Fullerton, Calif., with Harvard, they declined. At that time, the team once again decided that the California tournament better suited its competitive style.
  • These decisions about the schedule were neither punitive nor retaliatory, but in fact were made along with the debate team members.
  • When incidents or concerns are reported by any member of the Towson University community, they are addressed without discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, age, national origin, disability, marital status, veteran status, sexual orientation or gender. Any statement to the contrary is incorrect and irresponsible.

We will continue to have a direct dialogue with our students and we are invested in their continued academic growth at Towson University.