Archive for Monday, January 4, 2010

Tight budget times at KU may lead to cuts to national champion debate squad

January 4, 2010


Kansas University’s budget woes may soon affect its national championship debate squad’s ability to compete against other top teams.

In a holiday letter to debate alums, Robert Rowland, a KU communication studies professor and former national champion debater, said the squad could face cuts of up to $10,000 in upcoming reductions. He asked alumni to help fill the gap.

“For a squad that not only didn’t get any increase last year, but that was woefully underfunded compared to similar programs to begin with, these potential cuts can only be labeled as catastrophic,” Rowland wrote.

Rowland said that KU has had prolonged success in debate over many years. Where other areas of the university attempt to reach the top 25 of public schools, he said KU’s debate program continually places in the top five of all schools.

“It’s probably the one place over the last half-century where we’ve gone more than even-up with Harvard,” he said.

Scott Harris, KU’s debate coach, said the team spends nearly all its $100,000 budget on travel, which allows its debaters to compete against top-level talent.

In early January, for example, Harris said he’ll be sending teams to California and Texas, eating up almost $10,000. The school typically travels to 18 or 19 tournaments per year, he said.

He said the school’s funding is relatively average for most squads, but is still below most of the top contenders in the nation.

Harris said he appreciates the support the school has given in the past. KU has commemorated Nate Johnson’s and Brett Bricker’s March national championship victory over Wake Forest in the wee hours of the morning with billboards, television ads and prominent displays on the school’s Web page.

Though KU has a young squad this year, Harris said, it is continuing on previous success, with duos ranked 11th and 13th among all debaters, and an overall No. 5 national ranking for the entire team.

The alumni have been “awesome” in their support, too, Harris said. A “Donate to Debate” link from the program’s home page points to six different KU Endowment funds that support various areas of the debate program.

It’s difficult to tell exactly the size of other schools’ budgets, he said, as many don’t reveal specifics, but when teams travel with larger contingents, it’s pretty easy to see they have more cash available than KU, he said.

He said while budget troubles are not something that worry him every day, it’s been a concern lately.

“We’ve had historically strong support,” Harris said. “Whenever there are changes in leadership and the economy’s in trouble, you worry about these things.”

Beth Innocenti, chairwoman of the communication studies department, said in an e-mail that while the potential size of the cuts are still unknown, the debate program, along with the school’s graduate program, would likely have to take a hit.

“As is the case with our graduate program, which serves undergraduates throughout the university, budget cuts for debate will hurt KU,” she said.


deskboy04 8 years, 2 months ago

KU should come up with the money. This is a quality coach and program.

WilburM 8 years, 2 months ago

Time to get Lew involved -- debate points, sponsorships, skyboxes!!!!

Seriously, it's pathetic that a great program like this might face cuts in funding. Great PR fro KU, and it attracts excellent students. What's not to like?

KU_cynic 8 years, 2 months ago

Money to support bright articulate students employing rhetorical skills debating public policy?

Why would KU want to support that?

Hey, if you can row a boat student fees are paying for a nice boathouse on the Kaw. Drop debate, dress in drag, and Big Lew will twist students' arms to get you some funding.

KU_cynic 8 years, 2 months ago

More seriously, how about KU cancels the scheduled April 11th "installation" ceremony for Chancellor BGL and instead uses the funds to support the debate team?

mom_of_three 8 years, 2 months ago

Maybe athletics will pony up some money to the other national champions at KU.

Matthew Herbert 8 years, 2 months ago

Ridiculous! Cutting money from a NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP debate team is an awful idea. What more do you want them to do to prove they deserve the money? They are the #1 team in the nation, period. They did this using a squad of kids recruiting almost exclusively, if not entirely from the state of Kansas so it's not as if Coach Harris is having to spend money on lavish recruiting trips like all the other competitive programs at KU. This article truly saddens me.

nobody1793 8 years, 2 months ago

Oh c'mon. You'd think the debate team of all people would be able to successfully argue for more money.

anon1958 8 years, 2 months ago

Who can be surprised at this? KU priorities are basketball and football. The public demands entertainment and the debate team does not provide a popular form of entertainment.

The state that geographically surrounds KU cannot be mistaken for a realm that is supportive of education. Even the local school district, which cut bus routes, is more committed to after school sport events than actually getting kids to school in the morning.

Thinking_Out_Loud 8 years, 2 months ago

Quite some time ago, someone on these boards suggested the State divest KU and the other regents institutions. The comment was something like "If the legislature can't take care of its nice things, we shouldn't let it have nice things."

I think I said then, and it's still true, that I'm prepared to let the legislature try to save its money by divesting its regents institutions. I think the legislatures should also office and meet on Forbes Field, given that they allowed the Statehouse to fall into such disrepair that it requires the amount of investment it now requires to bring it back into good shape.

overthemoon 8 years, 2 months ago

I am really pleased to see comments supporting the debate team! It is no small feat to defeat the Ivy's and other 'power' schools and it is a huge kudo for KU. I was also pleased to see a billboard on i-70 for the national champ debate team.

overthemoon 8 years, 2 months ago

I also do not recall any news stories about the Debate team getting into fights with the Solar Powered Car team...

dickmerkin 8 years, 2 months ago

KU has the money. All they need to do is fire Lew Perkins and they can fund every endangered program. He's a parasite who is killing his host. They need to get rid of that horribly embarrassing carnival announcer at the basketball games too. That is awful.

AnnaUndercover 8 years, 2 months ago

@Bunny_Hotcakes Thanks for posting the link. I will donate $25 when I get back from France. I tweeted about it and asked others to do the same.

Hopefully, people will spread the word.

volunteer 8 years, 2 months ago

But hundreds of thousands support that Provost for Diversity position and associated expenses...

Mel Briscoe 8 years, 2 months ago

i'm sure this has already been said, i haven't read the other comments yet, but it is a damn shame that THIS national championship team could have their money messed w/ because of "budget cuts" but you bet your britches that the men's basketball national championship team won't have one red cent taken away from them. that's bulls**t.

G_E 8 years, 2 months ago


You're right, it is a shame. However, one can't really compare the two (although that hasn't stopped many in this thread from doing so), as the basketball team is funded through KU Athletics, which is a private corporation not affiliated with the state. The KU debate team is part of the university proper and therefore given state funds, meaning they're subjected to the same budget cuts everyone else is. Yes, it sucks that Athletics is rolling in dough while the rest of the University is struggling, but technically, that's their right as a corporation.

As a student and fan of both of these championship-caliber teams, I'm disappointed that the debate team will take a hit with their funding - but given the large number of budget cuts going around, I can't say I'm all too surprised either.

overthemoon 8 years, 2 months ago

"Yes, it sucks that Athletics is rolling in dough while the rest of the University is struggling, but technically, that's their right as a corporation."

Yes, you're right. But what happens to KU athletics as KU the educational institution flounders in research, academics, attracting top notch students and faculty? At what point does the "KU" in KU athletics demand that the enormously over funded athletic department give back to the school that gives them their name, their fans, and their real estate?

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