Through the years, Cornell traditions have come and gone. One notable tradition that got lost in the shuffle is the Big Red Tournament of Love, a competition hosted by the Cornell Speech and Debate Society.
The team hosted the competition once again on Feb. 27, where participants from all over the country gathered virtually to compete in the tournament. The speech team is a part of the larger Cornell Speech and Debate Society, a student organization that participates in individual and dual speaking events to sharpen their speech and presentation skills.
The Big Red Tournament of Love follows the rules of a typical speech and debate competition, when students compete in different categories ranging from drama, prose and poetry to impromptu and informative speech.
Since becoming co-captains as first-year students, Chloe Washabaugh ’22 and Ben Feldman ’22 had worked with their coach Brandon Johnson to bring back the decade-old Cornell speech tradition, which they first reintroduced in 2020, when Cornell hosted the tournament in-person that has now gone virtual.
Feldman said that it had been close to a decade since the tournament had been held at Cornell, before the team decided to reintroduce it. He added that the tradition went so far back that his parents had met on the Cornell speech team.
“They remember the Big Red Tournament of Love,” Feldman said. “It used to be speech and debate. Eventually, it split and the speech part didn’t come back until last year.”
Feldman said the task of organizing the tournament came with numerous challenges, highlighting that speakers adapted to not being able to see each other’s body language, especially in pair speeches such as “Duo Interpretation,” when two competitors perform their speeches together in the same room.
“When you force people by rule change during the pandemic to be on separate screens, it forces you to reimagine how duo interpretation is run,” Feldman said. “That’s the kind of thing that these little challenges have piled up along the way to really force us to think how we can adapt, and it’s certainly been challenging at times.”
However, both captains were pleased with the turnout. According to Washabaugh, multiple students from the East Coast, as well as the Midwest participated in the tournament.
As a part of the tournament, the team also hosted a telethon to help the Hazleton Integration Project, a community-based organization that hopes to unite people from different cultures who live in Hazleton, Pennsylvania.
“Our fund committee went live on Facebook for most of the day, trying to get people to donate money and it really worked,” Feldman said. “That was a huge success.”
Although the speech team is excited to host more events this semester, such as an upcoming alumni showcase that will involve the broader Cornell community, the organization’s primary focus is succeeding in nationals. Last weekend, Sydney Browne ’23 qualified for the National Forensic Association Nationals, and Carson Taylor ’23 qualified for the American Forensic Association Nationals.
“We’re just going to stick to making the events better, working on them as a team and trying to be as strong as we can going into those tournaments,” Taylor said.