Lenape Debate in the Pandemic


Lenape’s Debate Team had to take a different approach this year in order to run their usual debates during the pandemic. Ever since schools have had to adapt to a virtual setting, in-person clubs have been affected as well. Debate is a club that relies heavily on being in-person, so switching to online meetings was a difficult adjustment for the team. I got the chance to interview Mrs. Fauver and asked her questions related to the adaptations that needed to be made for the Debate Team to have a season.

Q: To start off with, how has Debate had to change in order to adapt to the pandemic?

A: “The Debate Team has gone through a lot of different changes in terms of how we meet as a team, but then also as a league…we [the Debate advisors of the South Jersey Debate League] weren’t sure if we were even going to be able to have a season. I think I could envision how I could reach out via Google Classroom and Meets… but we weren’t quite sure how this was possibly going to work as a league… we did come up with a format where it would be via Zoom, and everyone would log in from home and each judge (advisor) judges the other teams that are going. So we would “host” a Zoom room that we would each have the students, all that were competing, come into our Zoom. We had to change it up: we couldn’t disallow technology, we were using technology… But other than that, we still had the same expectations: we expected students to have done a lot of research, to make strong arguments, to be very interactive and engaged with one another. So once we had this initial idea set from the league, when I started meeting with the Debate Team from Lenape, that was also different… Just like those little things, coming together as a team, got missed a bit, but I feel like we were still able in a Google Meet to keep that engagement and keep everyone very involved… we modified some things but I think the essence of students researching, working together, developing these plans, making strong arguments and competing against students from throughout South Jersey continued.”

Q: How do you feel the adjustment went? Were you happy with how the season turned out?

A: “I was. I have to say that the structure and format grew on me the further we got into the season. At first, it just seemed very odd to me, having been part of Debate for a decade… it [was] very different to not have students right in front of me debating. But once I sat back and started watching what was happening, we saw tremendous, high-quality debates from students throughout all the schools, and I was so proud of the entire Lenape team for how engaged [they] were throughout the season. When we even met in-person, I feel like we would meet and then when people went to break up into groups, conversations got onto a bunch of other things that had nothing at all to do with Debate… Whereas when I feel like we met in a Google Meet, everyone was very focused and we had almost 100%  attendance from our team for almost every meeting… This was by far the highest level of engagement I have seen in students, which I found super exciting… In terms of the league, we successfully ran Varsity and JV debates… there were some tech glitches along the way, but overall, I felt the season worked extremely well. Definitely exceeded my expectations.”

Q: What do you see for the future of Debate (will it be more technology-based or will it go back to the way it was when things become normal)?

A: “I do… the season ended the last week of February, and all the coaches met a week later, and everyone was fairly happy with the result and I actually thought I could almost see Zoom Debate continuing. People might not have to worry about buses… We thought that could be a solution, but the one item we really do want to get back to in terms of Debate was having all the research done before… Quick summary of how Debate works: One team comes in as the Affirmative and they have a plan on a certain topic, and then the Negative never has any idea what they’re coming into. They’ll know it’s about the topic…they need to have evidence prepared to counter any plan they see, so that was the essence of our league. This year, we know that all the negative teams spent time looking it up on their phones… as soon as they heard the plan, so we felt that that took away from it a bit, so we believe we’re going to go back to not using technology just to get that aspect back. But in terms of Lenape, I definitely see Google Meets continuing, kind of a mix of in-person meetings as well. I think it will just lead to a lot more flexibility, perhaps a lot more students getting involved… So I think in terms of communication and Lenape, specifically for the Debate Team, I think we will continue to utilize a mix of in-person and virtual meetings.”

As we can tell, the Lenape Debate Team worked really hard to make their season as successful as possible, and it paid off because they were still able to run so many debates during the pandemic. The persistence Mrs. Fauver and the Debate Team have shown proves that Lenape’s clubs can continue in difficult times!