Mississippi College

MC Debate Team Opens 2008 Season Against Arkansas

September 22, 2008

Mississippi College communication professor Merle Ziegler is confident of another successful year for MC's debate team.

There's reason for Ziegler, the team's new coach, to be optimistic when the season opens in early October in Arkansas. MC senior Chase Porter, 21, is back after being named the top public debate speaker at a January 2008 tournament at Louisiana State University.

A Christian Studies/political science major, Porter is a first-rate debater going back to the time he was captain of his speech and debate team at Picayune Memorial High. Whether the subject is the presidential campaign or the possibility of a playoff system for the NCAA's Division I football championship, Porter is well-versed on just about every issue. A former student government vice president who began competitive debating seven years ago, Porter can effectively argue his points on or off campus.

"You are developing the ability to think, the ability to communicate and the ability to believe in yourself," said Porter, whose hometown is Picayune in Pearl River County.

Coaches like Ziegler are helpful to seasoned debaters and those who are novices. "He is a brilliant coach who invests his time in his students for the love of the art of communication," Porter said Friday.

College debate teams must be fast learners and must know how to speak effectively on their feet and display confidence. At tournaments, debate teams have as little as 15 minutes to prepare when a judge identifies a topic and asks them to defend a position. Most debaters are well-read on current issues. They are typically prepared to speak on traditional subjects like freedom of the press, freedom of speech and states' rights, Ziegler said.

Mississippi College's four-member team opens its 2008-2009 season at the University of Arkansas at Monticello Oct. 4-5. The tournament is dubbed the "Weevil Wars." The team also travels to the Red River Classic at Louisiana State University at Shreveport on Nov. 14-16 MC hosts a regional tournament on the Clinton campus Dec. 5-6. In the new year, MC debaters participate in the Mardi Gras Classic at LSU in Baton Rouge Feb. 13-15. Competition at Henderson State University in Arkansas Feb. 27-28, followed by two national tournaments in March and April in Shreveport, conclude the season.

Porter and Hannah Loden, a junior from Germantown, TN, are listed as the two varsity debaters on the roster. At the LSU tournament in January in Baton Rouge, Loden was named the top public debate speaker in the novice category.

Newcomers to the team at the Christian university are: Harris Swayze from Benton, and Joel Garrison from New Orleans.

Ziegler said the upcoming three presidential debates between John McCain and Barack Obama and the one vice presidential debate between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin are causing millions of Americans to pay attention. "There's more interest in talking about debate and what it is like," he said.

But there are major differences in the formats for presidential debates and the requirements for college debaters, Ziegler said.

Succeeding debate coach Web Drake, who left MC for a teaching post at Union University in Jackson, TN, Ziegler brings plenty of experience. He served as debate coach from 1983 until 1989 at Liberty University in Virginia where he was a communication professor. The Clinton resident knows how to raise his voice at times. An MC faculty member since 1994, Ziegler was the coach for Choctaws' soccer teams from 1995 until 2001.

PHOTO: Dr. Merle Ziegler

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