Leveling the playing field:
Law school provides resources for debaters
Catherine Smith, associate dean of institutional diversity and inclusiveness at the Sturm College of Law, believes in extending a helping hand and cultivating talent outside the college’s classrooms.
That’s why, when community organizers launched a Denver chapter of the Urban Debate League, Smith seized on an opportunity to expand the law school’s outreach. She invited the fledgling chapter to capitalize on the many amenities available in the Frank H. Ricketson Jr. Law Building.
Today, the Denver Urban Debate League, only three years old, has a place to call home, and its participants, including middle and high school students, have access to all the resources of a law school.
“There are a lot of ways to recruit students,” Smith explained. “One is to tap into the amazing community members and talent and energy right here in Colorado. Another is about leveling the playing field in terms of communities that might not have access to resources like DU and the law school.”
The league creates debate teams at Denver Public Schools. These teams are coached by volunteers, among them DU law students who can earn community service credit for their efforts. Faculty and staff members support the cause by serving as competition judges. In addition, league participants have access to the law library and college events.“We can no longer leave education solely to primary and secondary institutions,” Smith said. “Higher education institutions must get involved and provide resources to level the playing field for low-income communities and communities of color.”