[eDebate] Wyoming Forensics Institute cancelled for summer '08

matt stannard stannardmatt
Thu Feb 7 12:19:43 CST 2008

Dear community:
The Wyoming Forensics Institute has been cancelled for summer of 2008.  We hope to resume operations in the summer of 2009, and will publicize it in every debate forum as early as possible as soon as we make that determination.
For seven years, WFI has run a national-level camp at prices never exceeding $625 for two weeks and $925 for three weeks.
The reasons for this difficult decision are twofold: First, on-campus housing and meals have gone way up in price, to the point where we'd have to charge hundreds of dollars more per student to pay for these expenses, pay a fair salary to the WFI staff, and break even.  We lost a considerable amount of money last year because this price increase occurred AFTER we had set our prices for WFI, and the prices are only going to increase in the future.  
Second, despite the efforts of my department chair, Dr. Ken Smith, and myself, to get another full-time UW debate staff position (an extremely reasonable and sorely needed request, as UW has one of the smallest coaching/admin staffs of any college team with 20+ debaters), the University will not do so for the 2008-9 academic year.  This position was, among other things, intended to handle administrative responsibilities for our summer camps, in order to relieve me of my 60-70 hour a week work schedule.  
During the next several months, we plan a massive grant solicitation campaign in order to fund WFI the way it should be funded: through foundational and philanthropic support, so that students may continue to attend at minimal prices, AND so that we may begin to offer scholarships to students who cannot afford even our extremely low prices, AND so that we can increase staffing and pay fair wages to the staff.  And there's the central reason for this decision: As long as I am Director of Forensics at UW, we will fund the cheapest, most accessible national camp in the nation, treat our staff fairly, and not make the success of the WFI vision contingent on hundreds of hours of unpaid labor on the part of the UW coaching staff (including myself) or the many valuable outside staff we hire.  If that means sacrificing WFI for a summer, then it's a clear, if not easy, decision.
We realize that we may lose some long-term clients to other, very fine summer institutes as a result of this decision.  We're prepared to accept that possibility, and we're also confident that the new, repaired WFI will allow more students than ever before to attend, regardless of economic circumstances.  We will take this hit in order to SAVE the Wyoming Forensics Institute.  In the status quo, its collapse is inevitable.  
This is a difficult message to write, even though Dr. Smith and I feel this is undoubtedly the correct decision.  I am happy to take questions, comments, and helpful suggestions privately on this matter, at stannard at uwyo.edu.  Dr. Smith and I appreciate the hard work that everyone has put into WFI for eight years now, and look forward to re-establishing it in the summer of 2009, new and improved.  
Matt Stannard
Associate Lecturer, Director of Forensics
Department of Communication and Journalism
University of Wyoming.
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