AFA Newsletter - Vol. 36 No. 2.1, May, 2014
AFA Newsletter: A Publication of the American Forensic Association
Vol. 36 No. 2.1, May, 2014
Election Edition: Candidate Statements and AFA-NIET Charter Changes.
Candidate: Shunta Jordan
Candidate School: Pace Academy
Position Seeking: Vice President for High School Affairs
My name is Shunta Jordan and I am the current Director of Speech and Debate at Pace Academy in Atlanta, GA. It is an honor to have been nominated for the position of VP of High School Affairs.
I have been actively involved in speech and debate for over 25 years, first as a high school debater, then a college debater at the University of Georgia and now as a teacher/coach. Through my experience, I have come to realize the importance of building and sustaining relationships in forensics. If elected, I would like to continue building relationships between the high school and college debate communities. Recently we have entered a critical juncture in our activity as issues of diversity and diverse argumentation emerge in the traditional realm of speech and debate. These issues make meaningful dialogue and cooperation between the two communities more important than ever. Lastly, I seek an active role in serving our community in order to improve the overall quality of forensics. As an example, I would like to be an ally within the high school community while providing the liaison necessary to voice those opinions to various constituencies like school boards, debate organizations, and the college community.
Debate has been my life, and I look forward to the opportunity to serve the forensics community in new and significant ways.
Director of Debate, St. Mark's School of Texas
I’m honored to be nominated. I’m the former Director of Debate at Notre Dame and Pace University. After 11 years of coaching college debate I became the Director of Debate at the St. Mark’s School of Texas. I’m now in my eleventh year of teaching at St. Mark’s. I have a history of service in debate organizations and see this as another opportunity to serve the community that has given me so much. I was co-host of the 2006 CEDA Nationals held in Dallas. I previously served on the National Debate Coaches Association board. After school I work with the Future Leaders program teaching debate to 8th graders in an educational enrichment program for students from economically disadvantaged public schools. I’ve also been the director of the National Debate Coaches Association National Championships for several years now. My forensics career started at a small high school in Wyoming. That is about as far removed from the St. Mark’s program and national circuit debate as one could get. Because of my background I believe I have the ability to represent a large variety of perspectives if elected.
Director of Debate and Forensics, Assistant Dean for Student Affairs
Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, University of Southern California
I am very appreciative of the opportunity to explain my rationale for seeking elected office within the American Forensics Association. This is a potentially very exciting moment for intercollegiate forensics. A combination of trends is encouraging colleges and universities to devote greater attention and resources to programs that prepare students for the challenges after graduation. The ability to express oneself, to engage in a reasoned discussion, and to explore the logical foundations of competing claims are all increasingly in demand.
As the leading association of forensics professionals, we should be well positioned to demonstrate the utility of our educational practices and usher in a renaissance of forensics programs. While there are certainly successes and positive trends, we face a number of challenges that prevent intercollegiate forensics from reaching its potential. Our emphasis on competition is incredibly important. Competition is the engine that drives our wonderful students to greater heights. At the same time, our responsibility is to ensure that we tailor the competitive setting in ways that will produce an optimal educational environment.
If I am fortunate enough to serve, my goal will be to immediately commission the review of how our current practices reflect the following goals:
First, we must ensure that competitive forensics is an option for all students. Using the student populations of our home institutions as a baseline, we must explore how effective we are at reaching a wide cross-section of students. Every institution of higher education has its own perspective on the student population it serves. This will vary from school to school, but we can celebrate the rich collection of our member schools to assess how we are reaching first generation college students, students of color, LGBT students, student veterans, international students, and our majority undergraduate population, but too often a minority of competitors, female students. We should celebrate those opportunities where speech and debate are making our institutions more accessible to students. When we fail to truly open doors to students, we must learn from others who have succeeded and allow them to influence all of our practices. Promoting diversity for all students is too important to be solely considered as a competitive practice.
Second, we must examine our assessment practices. The era of speech and debate demonstrating their importance through anecdotal information of supporting critical thinking has long past. Every successful academic unit now makes evidenced claims to specific learning outcomes and forensics must embrace this reality. We each stay involved as coaches and mentors because we know first-hand the powerful influence of a forensics education. We must overcome our personal reluctance and utilize contemporary practices to demonstrate the importance of our teaching.
Finally, we need to examine the prospect of truly global forensics competition. One hundred years ago, speech and debate was radical in its effort to have students travel to other schools for performances and debates. Even before the modern tournament model took shape, travel was an inherent part of why forensics programs needed funding. Today the expanded pace of globalization has defined the cutting edge of travel as international. Our institutions are becoming more global and we have an important role to play. This is the single greatest moment of expansion in academic debate around the world. Some of the visionary figures in this effort are members of our community. We must continue their great work and leverage mediated (online) platforms to help make global connections possible, even when physical travel is not. I have learned at USC that innovation is the best way to move our profession forward and when we began to study the transition of forensics activities through new media experiences it attracted the grant support of the Open Society Foundations. The AFA, with its strong support of programs like the Committee on International Discussion Debate, is well positioned to lead.
I am running against two excellent candidates and I am confident that the AFA will be well represented by whomever you select. I would submit that my experience as a Director of Forensics and Debate has led me to embrace service opportunities, especially those that provide opportunities for change. I served as the co-chair of the first debate developmental conference in decades because we needed a more robust professional dialogue. I served as the co-editor of Contemporary Argument and Debate (CAD) because the journal needed to shift to a free online publishing platform so more readers could learn of our community’s great scholarship. I served as the President of the Cross Examination Debate Association (CEDA) because there was a need to help set examples for other forensics professionals. I am very proud of the role that I played in having CEDA adopt the, first of its kind, professional code of conduct, which has now been adapted by many organizations including the AFA. I served as the chair of the CEDA Topic Selection Committee because I felt that I could embrace new ways of enhancing community input into the topic writing process. Finally, I have served as a regional representative to the National Debate Tournament for most of the last decade. I continue to believe that the NIET and NDT play important roles as cornerstones of our community. Our challenge in the next few years is to assess these tournaments, and all of our practices, against the goals of promoting diversity, assessment and internalization. The AFA is a unique institution to address all of these goals and I would be honored to represent you in this capacity.
Overview of AFA-NIET Charter Changes:
The amendments to the AFA-NIET Charter were proposed by an Ad Hoc Constitution Committee presented to and approved by the AFA-NIET Committee in April of 2013. Changes were contained to the area of Committee Membership. The office of Vice Chair and the National Student Representatives were missing from the list of members of the AFA-NIET Committee. In addition, the voting status of members was inconsistent with current practices. Updating the descriptions of committee membership allows the constitution to more clearly reflect the current make up and practices of the AFA-NIET Committee.
A complete copy of the charter can be found at: