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An Open Letter to American Forensic Association’s (AFA) Members Schools, Faculty, Coaches and Students, September 18, 2017

Amidst the backdrop of a great deal of national, state, and local controversy, the opening of the 2017-18 speech and debate competition season is a welcome return to routine. Our competitive seasons are not insulated from the broader controversies facing our nation. At this moment, it is important for the AFA, as the sanctioning organization for so much of collegiate forensics, including the National Individual Events Tournament and the National Debate Tournament, to reaffirm our values that serves as a guidestar to our member programs and competitions.
The AFA supports and sanctions forensics competition because the free expression of ideas is essential to all forms of speech and debate education. The centerpiece for this creed is a commitment to fair and respectful treatment of each participant. The AFA Code of Standards notes that, “The AFA recognizes that behaviors which belittle, degrade, demean, or otherwise dehumanize others are not in the best interest of the activities sponsored by the AFA. Such behaviors interfere with the goals of forensic education.” Each student has the expectation that they can participate in forensics competition free from discrimination regardless of future policy interpretations of Title IX. Furthermore, the AFA code provides a formal review and adjudication process to evaluate such matters.
The AFA strongly endorses the American Association of University Professor’s statement that the diversity of our faculty and students is one of the most important strengths of American higher education. Every student at our member schools deserves the opportunity to participate in forensics education, regardless of their immigration status.
As a collection of forensics programs, our primary means of support are the resources provided through our home institutions. For example, students at risk by the removal of DACA status, many of our campuses are already providing free legal expertise and support. Similarly, our affiliate organizations include anti-harassment policies that complement the policies at each of our member institutions.
As policies evolve, the AFA will continue to support its member schools and their students. We invite our faculty, coaches and students to engage with us directly if they experience situations that are at odds with our Code of Standards and cannot be addressed utilizing campus and NIET or NDT/CEDA procedures. We wish you the best for the 2017-18 academic year and competition season.
Gordon Stables, President – American Forensic Association           
On behalf of the AFA Executive Committee