The SF State forensics team placed fourth overall in the first speech and debate competition of the season, the annual SF State-hosted Golden Gate Opener.
College students from across California and some out-of-state schools congregated in the Humanities Building to perform their speeches and argue their points.
There were multiple event categories occurring at the same time. An empty classroom and a judge was assigned to each event. One at a time, students in their business attire took the front of the classroom to perform their piece.
Each performance needs to be under 10 minutes or points will be taken away. The students do not have a timer to look at. Only from intuition and a lot of practice can they know how long they have been performing.
“There’s never going to be a time that you’re going to know how long you did even after performing,” said SF State speech coach Pablo Ramirez. “Even after the fact they won’t tell you your times; you won’t know until you receive the results.”
Judges can be coaches from other teams or SF state alumni, such as Adreanna Tironi, who used to be on the college’s forensic team. She judged two events: duo and impromptu. When judging, she focuses on the performance’s theme.
“I think it comes down to just how polished are they,” Tironi said. “How are they using the pieces that they’ve incorporated together to send that message.”
Some students, such as SF State student Jared Daniel Morin, had to leave an event early in order to perform in another. Morin said forensics helps bring certain issues to light and lets the team express their values to a wider audience.
“You’re making sure you reach out to everyone,” he said. “If you do become a professional speaker, often times you will have to be moving around or engaging with every single one of your audience members.”
Topics can range from racism in the LGBTQ+ community to the black market of baby formula to whether or not the United States should provide aid to a foreign country.
“It’s just an amazing experience to see the world through different eyes,” Morin said. “And to see all of these people come together just to discuss things that need to be addressed.”
The forensic community’s goal is to share and debate different ideas to determine what’s true..
“Forensics is defined as the search for truth,” Ramirez said. “Through speaking and debating, we use academic sources and literature to provide arguments in a competitive environment.”
Depending on the event, each student either performs a prepared speech on their chosen topic or is given a topic which they have 25 minutes to prepare a speech for.
Ashley Holly, SF State debate student, felt intimidated at first since this was her first event.
“I thought it was gonna be a lot more scary and I thought I was gonna be judged for…not being my best and not knowing all this information,” she said. “But they are understanding and they want you to learn and they want you to try, so I’m comfortable and I’m happy.”
In the midst of running around to each event, forensics students show support to their teammates with quick interactions of encouragement.
“We have this thing where, in between rounds as you’re running from one room to another, we like to either high-five or say ‘You got this,’ you know, something quick,” Ramirez said. “Because we’re also competing, we’re also running around, so I can’t actually go sit and watch you but I can give you a lot of love, a lot of enthusiasm, as we’re running past each other.”
The Gators forensics team took home a number of accolades. Sandy Pham won first place in the open impromptu and second place in the open extemporaneous speaking categories. Tony Monk and Nico Pesci both received second place in novice parliamentary debate. Zak Ali and a last minute partner from the University of San Francisco were semi-finalists in open policy debate. Katelyn Gonsalves won second place in the novice extemporaneous category. Katie Cree garnered second place in novice persuasive debate. Jared Daniel Morin placed in fifth place in open persuasive debate. And DeAnah Moses was a finalist in novice speaking.
“Forensics is a space that really offers an opportunity for growth,” Ramirez said. “So although we like to win, it’s not my goal, it’s not my focus, it’s not what I’m gonna push you for.”