UW to host State Speech and Debate tournament online - Casper, WY Oil City News
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UW to host State Speech and Debate tournament online

University campus (file photo by Brendan LaChance) and Matt Liu (photo courtesy of the University of Wyoming)

CASPER, Wyo. —  The University of Wyoming has announced that a high school Speech and Debate Tournament that was scheduled for mid-March and was subsequently cancelled, will be held in April with the aid of technology.

The State Speech and Debate Tournament was originally March 12-14, but was cancelled over concern surrounding the coronavirus caused COVID-19 global pandemic. But it was announced that event will take place online in the coming weeks.

“For these students, state is often the pinnacle of their career — something they’ve put four years of their heart and soul into,” says UW debate Director Matt Liu. “For them, having it canceled would be like qualifying for the Olympics or the Super Bowl and not getting to go.”

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UW says that their debate program was uniquely prepared to offer assistance, after having previous experience hosting tournaments online. According to a university statement, Liu and the debate team launched a distance pilot program during the fall 2019 semester.

“Geographic isolation often means it’s more expensive for us to travel to competitions than other schools,” Liu says. “Adding a single online tournament to the calendar was a way to supplement, not replace, brick-and-mortar tournaments.”

Liu adds that this experience left UW oddly prepared for the post-COVID-19 world of social distancing. Debate organizations throughout the country and even beyond have reportedly reached out, seeking advice on how to plan and execute online tournaments.

Liu says the state championship will require an enormous amount of time and effort from the UW debate team members.

“But it’s something they all happily volunteered for — especially knowing what it feels like to have their own season end early,” Liu says. “Many of them were happy to create an opportunity to stop that from happening to their younger counterparts.”

Details for the online tournament are still being hammered out, but university officials say it will take place April 22-25 and is designed to not interfere with all students’ online class schedules.

“Working with high school students meant working harder on issues of privacy, safety and security, but those are all things we feel confident about how we are addressing them,” Liu says.

The Wyoming State Speech and Debate Tournament has the potential to help prepare debate organizers for high school nationals, which also is expected to move online amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Latest Statistics from the Wyoming Department of Health:

What to do if you are feeling sick: In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Casper-Natrona County Health Department says that people who are feeling sick or exhibiting symptoms should contact their primary physician.

If you do not have a primary care provider, and live in Natrona County, please contact the COVID-19 hotline, operated by the Casper-Natrona County Department of Health. The line is open Monday – Friday 8:00 am – 5:00 pm 577-9892. Hotline services are intended for Natrona County residents and may not be able to provide specific information to persons calling from out of county.

Officials ask that you please do not self-report to the Emergency Room. Persons experiencing problems breathing should call 9-11.

For general inquiries and non-symptom related questions about COVID-19, please contact the Casper-Natrona County Health Department via email: covid@cnchd.org

  • Practice Social Distancing by putting distance between yourself and other people. This is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Stay home if you’re sick
  • Cover coughs and sneezes. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow.
  • Clean AND disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.

A list of area closures attributed to COVID-19 are available here.