Forensics takes fourth place

by Chris Reichert|Staff Writer

Earlier this November, the Whitworth University Forensics team, “The Arguing Bucs” placed 4th out of 32 at the 87th annual Mahaffey Tournament at Linfield College, with all attending team members making it to finals in at least one event.

Photo courtesy of Rylee Walter Forensics team members sophomore Tucker Wilson and junior Sara Muscente perform while volunteering with the North Central High school team, where team member Rylee Walter coaches. This is one way the team serves the Spokane community.

“Every Pirate brought home an award from the tournament,” said Mike Ingram, professor of communication studies and the team’s coach.  

This success continues the team’s trend of strong showings this year.

“Whitworth is consistently competing well academically against our peers from across the region,” Ingram said.

The Forensic Team participates in eight or nine tournaments over the course of a school year, with students competing in 11 speaking events ranging from pre-prepared informative speeches about gravitational waves to impromptu debates on postmodernism and its relation to President Trump.

“Forensics means a search for the truth…so as a team, we try to learn the skills helpful in doing that,” junior Sara Muscente said.

These skills are far-reaching in both their scope and their impact.

“No matter what you’re going to do, you’re probably going to need to talk to people, you’re probably going to need to communicate ideas, you’re probably going to need to be able to understand new information, and that’s kind of what’s at the core of forensics you understand information, you synthesize it whatever way you need to, and you are then able to communicate it to someone else,” sophomore Tucker Wilson said, tournament champion amongst novice and junior varsity students in the team’s most recent competition.

“I don’t think that you can be an effective really anything without an at least somewhat rounded repertoire of knowledge,” Muscente said.

The team attributes this year’s success to many factors, including Whitworth’s commitment to the liberal arts.

“It’s the breadth of the liberal arts that’s a real strength…we can help each other in really thoughtful and intelligent ways based on our knowledge base…If we were all comm, or all poli-sci, or all French majors, it would be less interesting,” Ingram said.

The forensics team is comprised of students of nine majors. The team members see this as an advantage.

“That’s something that our team in particular has always had as a really great strength, not just in our ability to help each other prepare for things like debates…but in addition, to just the actual action, we have a huge knowledge base,” Wilson said. Knowing how to learn is as important as what you learn, Ingram said.

“At Whitworth we’ve talked about the liberal arts teaching you how to learn, and how to continue being a lifelong learner. I think in a 30-minute contest we’re better equipped than students who are in a more narrow academic program at some larger universities. That speaks again to the power of the liberal arts,” Ingram said.

“Very quickly, everyone on the team gets very, very close to each other…Because we all become such good friends, it’s a better environment for us to grow,” Wilson said.

In such an environment, team members are better able to discuss ideas amongst themselves, which improves their performance on the debate floor and in their own lives in general, Wilson said.

Wilson considers this close bond of trust and support to be essential for a forensics team.

“A good teammate is someone who is, one, willing to give criticism, and two, can take criticism, and three, someone who’s very supportive,” Wilson said.  

Wilson sees this mutual support and growth as the foundation of everything forensics stands for.

“This is civil discourse. It’s based on solid argumentation…the types of people we debate with, on our team and without, they know that we’re here to grow intellectually,” Wilson said.

“If you’re there just to win, you probably shouldn’t be there.”

The team hopes their commitment to the liberal arts and to conversational versus combative debate embodies everything Whitworth stands for.

“I’d like to think that we represent [Whitworth] very, very well…I think we do quite a bit for promoting Whitworth’s image,” Wilson said.

The Arguing Bucs have at least four tournaments remaining in the spring, and in March will host the National International Public Debate Association tournament for the first time.

Contact Chris Reichert at