WT Forensics goes global ‘one quarter at a time’

The team poses with awards from the weekend of Oct. 30. They most recently competed in the Texas State Tournament.
The team poses with awards from the weekend of Oct. 30. They most recently competed in the Texas State Tournament.

The walls collapsed, and just like that more than 1,000 workers were injured. Just like that at least 142 workers perished under heaps of rubble. Bangladesh is one of the world’s leading garment exporters, and because of poor safety conditions and illegally built structures, a factory that makes clothing for European and American retailers tumbled to the ground. It left law enforcement officers, fire fighters and citizens scrambling in the debris searching for life. As this catastrophe made headlines around the world, it gave one West Texas A&M University student the foundation on which to build research for the Forensics Team competition.


Air Kamal, sophomore Communication Studies major and Bangladesh native, slouches back in a black bean bag chair as he looks at the photo displayed on the wall of the Forensics Team’s room. Most would shy away from looking at this photo since it captures two small, suffering children. The team, however, uses this photo as motivation, discipline and gratitude for what they do.


“Sometimes having a voice is very powerful and very necessary,” Kamal said. “It’s very beneficial for young adults like us who are trying to find a place in the world, and when we have that voice, I feel like we have let the world know that we matter.”


The team competes individually in events such as persuasive speaking, after dinner speaking, programmed oral interpretation, communication analysis and prose and poetry. Each individual team member is allowed to compete in up to six events. Kamal competes in four, for now.


“My favorite part of being on the team is being able to voice my opinions and my feelings over societal issues that need to be addressed in the global community,” Kamal said. “That’s exactly what we do. We take things that are wrong in society, and we address it through a performance.”


The team starts preparing their topics and performances in the week prior to school starting by taking on the ultimate bonding experience. They stay together in a house on top of a mountain for four days. These four walls allow no escaping each other.


“It’s like a crazy little forced picnic,” Kamal said. “It’s the best way to bond, because you’re forced to. Then you find out who you like and who you don’t and then over time, you start loving the people you don’t like and loving the people even more that you do like.”


But this is only the start to the time they will spend together throughout the semester. The team sees each other roughly three times a day at school, then three days straight on the weekends when traveling to competitions.


“We are zombies at that point but we are a family,” Kamal said. “You hate them and you love them, but you can’t live without them. Our bonds are so strong on this team and every single day we learn more about each other and our relationships get deeper.”


The head of the Forensics Team family is Professor Connie McKee, who not only gives guidance to the team, but makes them suffer detachment from the one thing students love most, their cell phones.


“The one thing they all hate but they’ve gotten used to, is that I take away their phones every morning and don’t give them their phones back until we are done competing,” McKee said. “I need them focused on the competition. You know what a sacrifice that is.”


Along with giving up cell phones, the team practices many other rituals. When something works for them, they don’t like to change it since they finished second in sweepstakes at the Fall State Tournament. For instance, when driving across railroad tracks every team member picks up their feet as a way to ward off bad spirits. And even though their mornings start bright and early on weekends, 7:30 a.m. to be exact, the team isn’t allowed to indulge in a breakfast glass of milk.


“While we are traveling, the kids can’t drink milk or milk products because it makes your voice thick and bad,” McKee said. “We are a very superstitious bunch.”


The team, with all of their superstitious beliefs, plans to go international. They have been invited to the International Forensics Association Competition in Barcelona and are doing everything imaginable to raise the funds to go.


“We are doing all kinds of things to make that happen including dragging around bags of Blow Pops and selling [them],” McKee said. “We are going to Barcelona one quarter at a time.”


Though the team showcases a competitive nature, McKee’s mantra for the team is more than just winning.


“I tell the kids it’s not about winning, it’s about giving your message,” McKee said. “We have a specific message that’s specific to the student. If we can change lives, that’s even better.”