Department of Writing Studies & Rhetoric
Speech and Debate Team
The Speech and Debate Team, also known as Hofstra Forensics, is a program in the Department of Writing Studies and Rhetoric that trains students to compete in debate and public speaking events against peers from dozens of other colleges and universities across the nation. They participate in several debate formats, as well as 11 individual speech events such as impromptu or persuasive speaking and drama or prose interpretation.
Undergraduate and graduate students from all disciplines can join the team, as long as they can invest time in training. Team meetings start at the beginning of each semester, and every member must commit at least 30 minutes a week (and as many as three hours, depending on how many competitive events they’ve registered for) to working with the team director, Adjunct Associate Professor Trent Webb, or the graduate assistants who make up the coaching staff, all of whom are award-winning orators themselves.
The Hofstra University Speech and Debate Team won five awards in the 2021 International Forensics Association’s annual tournament – capping a season that included 15 virtual competitions with 60 awards, including 13 individual first place wins and nine team awards.
“Our program is not just about being the best or having the most experience. It’s about building people and developing critical thinking skills and presentation skills and also networking with people, which are all important in any career path,” said Tomeka Robinson, PhD, senior associate dean of Rabinowitz Honors College, associate professor of rhetoric and the team’s former director.
Meet the Director
Professor Webb took over as Director of Forensics and Director of the Speech & Debate Team in 2022. He began his forensics career as a high school student in Texas, going on to win a scholarship at Texas State University, San Marcos, where he became their most decorated competitor in both speech and debate. He moved to New York in 2001 and has spent 20 years coaching on the community college circuit and taking on various leadership positions with speech and debate organizations. In total, he brings more than 30 years of experience in the forensics arts to Hofstra.
The team's history ...
The Hofstra Speech and Debate Team was started by Dr. Shirlee Sloyer in the late 1950s and participated in intercollegiate debate for several years. Dr. Charles Fleischman restarted the team in 1983 as an individual events team, specializing in publicizing and performance of literature events.
Dr. Fleischman was the coach and director of forensics until his retirement from Hofstra in 2008. Under his leadership, the team was active on the state, regional and national levels. The team was twice named New York State champion and was also successful on the national level. It won invitations to compete at the annual National Forensic Association’s individual events championship every year from 1983-2008, ranking ninth nationally in its division in 2000.
Following Dr. Fleischman’s retirement, the team went on hiatus until it was revived in 2014 with Dr. Tomeka Robinson as director.
Photos courtesy of Hofstra Special Collections
Learn more about the Speech and Debate Team
Speech and Debate’s Winning 2021 Season
The Hofstra University Speech and Debate Team won five awards in the International Forensics Association’s annual tournament in March 2021 – capping a season that included 15 virtual competitions with 60 awards, including 13 individual first place wins and nine team awards.
Hofstra Forensics Competes in First Global Tournament
In 2019 the Speech and Debate Team traveled to Berlin to compete in the International Forensics Association Tournament, the team’s first global contest. By the end of the six-day tournament, Hofstra students had done exceptionally well, producing two world champions – Jewell Christian Stewart in prose and Donovan Harvey in debate -- and the University was ranked third overall.
Join Speech and Debate
Undergraduate and graduate students from all disciplines can join the team, as long as they can invest time in training. Sabrina Singh, who graduated with a BA in philosophy, is interested in using qualitative methods to examine communication practices is studying rhetoric, philosophy and community health. She said, “I know the skills I’ve learned from the Speech and Debate Team - being able to write more clearly and present my ideas more succinctly - will carry over into any direction I take in my work.”
Want more information?
Trent Webb, MA
Director of Forensics
Adjunct Associate Professor
Department of Writing Studies & Rhetoric