When it comes to the word “forensics,” there are two kinds of people in the world: those who think of dead bodies, and those who think of speech and debate tournaments. I leave it to you to discern what each says about your personality. Stemming from the Latin root word forensis, meaning “in open court” or “public,” forensic societies have been around at Alfred University for much longer than you might think—since our founding in 1836, in fact.
According to the sixth university president, John Nelson Norwood, in his work “Fiat Lux: The Story of Alfred University,” debating societies were immensely popular among men’s groups in the early days of Alfred. “The Alfred Debating Society,” which soon changed its name to the far more complicated title of “The Franklin Academic Lyceum of Alfred,” strived to improve the mind “by mutual interchange of ideas in debates, lectures, the reading of homemade manuscript periodicals, and other means.” This “boom” of oration and debate continued until about 1908; after suffering a crushing defeat at a Cornell University competition, Alfred’s forensic team dissipated. The history gets a little foggy through the following years. In the early 1930’s, a new Forensic Society emerged and briefly, there once again seemed to be a strong interest in speech and debate. However, former President Norwood’s particular narrative ends in 1957, and there are no other well- documented histories of a speech and debate club until the 21st century.
Dale Mott Slater, a senior now at AU, founded the Alfred Speech and Debate Society in 2020. Since then, with the guidance of our advisor Professor James Hansen, the club has practiced forensic skills in events such as dramatic interpretation, prose interpretation, Lincoln-Douglas Debate, Parliamentary Debate, and many others. As of Spring 2022, ASDS competes in forensic tournaments, such as the Gorlok Gala hosted by Webster University.
The Society extends an invitation to all students, experienced in forensics or not, to join us in improving our critical thinking and originality. The art of speech is not just about being able to speak in front of an audience; it’s about being able to stand up for what you believe in and defend your point, speaking clearly with integrity and thoughtfulness. We believe that everyone can benefit from practicing forensics.
ASDS meets in the Powell Board Room at 6pm on Thursday nights. Email Monica Nowik firstname.lastname@example.org or find our organization on AU Connect for more information.
By Monica Nowik