Speakin’ out: U Students FUSED together by love of debate

By By Jack Lewis

By Jack Lewis

Keeping up with current affairs isn’t just a homework assignment for some U students; it’s their passion.

The first time Sofia Lingos, a senior in psychology, walked into the U debate team’s room, everyone was sitting around talking about what they read in The New York Times that morning.

“It was so exciting to be in a classroom environment where everyone came to class having read the paper and were talking about it instead of what show they watched the night before,” she said.

The U’s debate team is registered as the student group Forensics of Utah Students Engaged in Debate, or FUSED, with the Associated Students of the University of Utah.

The team participates in three or four intercollegiate competitions across the country every semester.

The competitions require participants to stay informed about current events and issues. Their favorite team event is parliamentary debate, where they argue topics like whether or not to release the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, said Lingos.

They also engage in personal speaking events where they give speeches on current issues. The team practices to improve its oratory skills for both kinds of competition.

In previous years, members of FUSED have earned numerous individual and group awards and intend to continue their tradition of national recognition.

“Though the U has a small debate team, we more than compensate for quantity with quality,” said Joey Davis, president of FUSED and a senior in communication. “Both of our coaches are ex-national competitors, and…three years ago, we had a team that was ranked among the top five in the nation.”

Davis said a great deal of the group’s success is a result of the work of last year’s club president, Kellie Sterling, who “did a really excellent job of raising funds and trying to schedule an exhibition debate with BYU.”

Davis said he hopes to continue that progress this year and into the future.

Sterling, who graduated last May, said it was difficult re-organizing the team last year.

“It was formed so that students who had debated or wanted to debate could find ways to improve our skills to make us more competitive,” he said. “But last year we did not have a budget, and some of our requests were denied including our request for travel funds and periodicals.”

Michelle Balutski, an undeclared freshman, said she is excited about joining the team.

“There are many things I look for in a good debate team, but the most important thing to me is camaraderie,” she said. “A debate team is supposed to be an extension of your social life, and often the season is so hectic that it becomes your social life.”

The social aspect of the team is also something Lingos said she appreciated her first year. The team meets in a room with couches and magazines, which she said she finds a comfortable place to spend hours learning and practicing her skills.

FUSED will be hosting the Greater Salt Lake Tournament at the U Jan. 12-14. The team invites anyone interested to attend and watch the competitions.

“We are always looking for new members interested in getting involved at any level,” Lingos said.

FUSED meets Thursdays at 6 p.m. in LNCO 2630. For more information, e-mail Joey Davis at [email protected]

[email protected]