No debate: Chico State forensics team gets the ax over drug,

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No debate: Chico State forensics team gets the ax over drug,

Postby palmspringsbum » Sat May 27, 2006 9:55 am

The Chico Enterprise-Record wrote:http://www.chicoer.com/newshome/ci_3871866

Article Launched: 05/27/2006 12:34:03 AM PDT

No debate: Chico State forensics team gets the ax over drug, liquor use


By ARI COHN - Staff Writer



Dealing yet another black eye to Chico State University, debate team events have been axed because team members allegedly used cocaine, marijuana and alcohol during away-tournaments and off-campus parties.
An investigation by the school's Office of Student Judicial Affairs is ongoing, said university spokesman Joe Wills.

Time will tell if the speech and debate team's roughly 20 undergraduate participants will be able to talk themselves out of trouble. But meanwhile, campus officials announced on Friday the team's 2006 competition season has been called off, Wills said.

"There is essentially no more competition for fall," he said. "That's canceled."

Chico State's intercollegiate forensics program includes a debate team and individual events such as persuasive and extemporaneous speaking. Team members compete in roughly six tournaments during a semester.

The suspension of the debate team comes hot on the heels of the March cancellation of the remaining games of the Chico State women's softball team.

During an off-campus party March 24, members of the softball team allegedly served alcohol to a high school recruit they were hosting. The unnamed 17-year-old drank enough alcohol that she needed to be transported by ambulance to Enloe Medical Center.

The investigation into the debate team began after rumblings about possible drug and alcohol use among team members reached Department of Communication Arts and Sciences Chairwoman Ruth Guzley. Guzley notified Student Judicial Affairs in early May.

Judicial affairs officials have interviewed nearly all of the 20 debate team members over the last couple of weeks, Wills said. Suspicion has fallen on about five team members, but the investigation in ongoing, he said. The drug and alcohol abuse allegedly stretches back to the fall 2005 semester.

The majority of the remaining team members reportedly knew about or attended the gatherings where drugs and alcohol were present, judicial affairs officials found.

"They began interviewing students as part of their process," Wills said. "They found evidence that in fact it was credible."

He stressed that as of yet, a criminal investigation has not been launched. But students found in contravention of school policy against substance abuse could face disciplinary probation or suspension.

The debate team's coach, Christopher Howerton, is not under suspicion at the moment.

"As far as I know, there's no implication of Mr. Howerton," Wills said. "The students involved clearly made an effort to keep this a secret."

Even though the debate team's fall season has been squelched, the university still will hold forensics classes in the communication arts and sciences department, where students will be able to practice debate and public speaking in class.

University officials plan to tighten the restrictions on who is allowed to join the debate team and participate in tournaments, such as requiring potential team members to meet higher grade point average standards, Wills said.

The school also is developing overarching rules to better oversee extracurricular activities, but the rules will have to be tailored to the various teams. For instance, some clubs travel while some don't. And some are self-funded, while others are not.

"I'm not sure that one size would fit all," Wills said.


Staff writer Ari Cohn can be reached at 896-7767 or acohn@chicoer.com.


<u>BACKGROUND:</u> Last March, the Chico State University women's softball team's season was scratched after an underage recruit overdosed on alcohol at an off-campus party.

<u>WHAT'S NEW:</u> Another investigation, this time into the school's debate team, has led officials to conclude that debate team members had used illegal drugs and alcohol at tournaments and parties.

<u>WHAT'S NEXT:</u> The debate team's activities will be suspended for the fall 2006 semester.

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