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Although Lafayette College’s brand new Forensics Society has been competing only since February, two members, Jason Paul and Andy Gupta, have already qualified to represent Lafayette in the National Forensics Association (NFA) National Tournament April 14-19 at Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, Mich.

Paul, a first-year student from Boca Raton, Fla., qualified for the Lincoln-Douglas competition, while Gupta, a junior from Pune, India, qualified in extemporaneous speaking. Paul and Gupta are the team’s cofounders and copresidents.

“For a freshman to qualify for the NFA national Lincoln-Douglas tournament in only his second collegiate tournament is virtually unprecedented, and Jason did it,” says Bruce A. Murphy, the Fred Morgan Kirby Professor of Civil Rights and director of forensics. “It’s also gratifying that Andy has qualified. He has worked very hard, and this is a wonderful demonstration that hard work really pays off. He really deserves it.

“This give us a real leg up in developing our debate team,” Murphy says. “Some schools go years without qualifying anybody and we’ve been able to qualify two in our first month of competition.”

Paul has had remarkable success in his initial collegiate outings. He placed second in the Lincoln-Douglas competition in the Pennsylvania State Championships Feb. 19-20 at St. Joseph’s University, Philadelphia. He qualified for the NFA championships through his performance at a two-day “swing” tournament at Simmons College and Suffolk University in Boston Feb. 12-13. At the team’s debut competition, the Russell D. Martin Invitational Tournament at Cornell University Feb. 5-7, Paul placed first in the public forum debate, winning a near-unanimous decision from the audience members who served as judges in the final round.

Paul narrowly missed qualifying for the national tournament in another category of competition, extemporaneous speaking, at the state tournament, which included dozens of top individuals from Pennsylvania’s strongest debating schools. He placed seventh in extemporaneous speaking and impromptu speaking at the American Forensics Association (AFA) District 7 Qualifying Tournament Feb. 26-27 at George Mason University. At Cornell, he placed ninth in the Lincoln-Douglas competition while also garnering seventh in speaker totals.

Gupta qualified to compete in the NFA nationals by placing fourth in extemporaneous speaking at the AFA District 7 qualifier. At the state tournament Gupta was 13th in extemporaneous speaking. At Cornell, he placed third in the public forum competition and was named best speaker among non-finalists.

Geoffrey Gresh, a first-year student from Lowell, Mass., took 13th place in impromptu speaking and 14th place in extemporaneous speaking at the state tourney, while senior Wendy Erdly of Turbotville, Pa., competing in her first collegiate debate, finished 17th in impromptu speaking, improving with each round of competition and finally finishing second in her group. Gresh was fourth in the best speaker category at Cornell.

“This is an excellent new initiative, made even more so by the fact that it has been totally led by the students,” Murphy says. “These competitions will allow our students to use the totality of their liberal arts education in an effort not only to compete against other schools, but also to develop their communication skills.”

Melissa Miller, a doctoral candidate at Northwestern University and the wife of Neil A. Englehart, assistant professor of government and law at Lafayette, coaches speakers in individual events.

With early success like this, Murphy can hardly wait until next year, when the team will have a full season of competition.

“The effort will be even more exciting as we grow,” he says. “For next year we’re looking not only to build on this individual success but to build a Lincoln-Douglas team to compete for the team championship. The success by our highly energetic and extremely talented charter members bodes well for Lafayette’s future efforts on the forensics circuit.”

Categorized in: Academic News