Towson debate team wins its case

Towson University's debate team won its argument with school officials and will be going to a Harvard University competition this weekend.

The nationally ranked four-member team and its coach had prepared their speeches and packed their bags so that if a call came from a university official giving them permission to compete, they would be ready to go. Just 10 minutes after the call did come Friday afternoon, they said, they were driving north on Charles Street toward Interstate 695.

"We were going on a blind faith and a hope that they would respond in the way they did," said debate team member Kevin Whitley. The team's first debate starts at 7:30 a.m. or 8 a.m. today.

The team has had disputes with the university over a former coach, who has been reassigned, and over the tournament schedule.

The university said Thursday afternoon that the team would not be permitted to go to Harvard, contending that the team had already agreed to a schedule that didn't include the competition. Members of the team had attended that competition last year and said they had always wanted to go. If they do well, they said, they will be more likely to qualify for the national championships.

"Based on recently raised concerns regarding the Towson University forensics program, we have determined that more time is necessary to gain clarity on these complex matters. In the interim in an effort to ensure that we have not disadvantaged either the program or the students, we are allowing the Towson University Speech and Debate team to participate in the Harvard tournament. We wish them well," Provost Timothy Chandler said in a statement.

Whitley said he is pleased. "We all feel pretty good with the outcome. We are glad the university can support us in what we came here to do and what we love to do, which is to debate," he said.

He said the team believes it will be able to work through the problems it has had in the past year. "We feel this is a sign the university is willing to work with us on the issue. We feel we can move forward," he said.

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