Mock Trial qualifies for ‘most important tournament of the season’ despite recent budget cuts


Photo courtesy of Sarah Walther

Northwestern Mock Trial poses at a tournament. The group qualified two teams for the Opening Round Championship Series Tournament, despite drastic funding cuts following the University’s budget deficit

Cadence Quaranta, Reporter

For the second year in a row, Northwestern Mock Trial has qualified two teams to the Opening Round Championship Series Tournament. Only this time, they did it with about half the funding.

Just a week before fall classes began, NUMT received an email that the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences would cease to fund the team, the group’s treasurer Nicholas Anderson said. The Weinberg senior said the group had anticipated $12,000 of funding from Weinberg, with another $16,000 coming from the Office of the Provost and the Office of the President.

The drastic decrease in funding came after NU administrators directed all academic units to make a 5 percent non-salary cut last September in the wake of the University’s budget deficit. ASG later provided emergency funding to student groups struggling from the sudden budget cuts.

Anderson said the funding is used to pay registration fees for American Mock Trial Association membership as well as any additional tournaments. Team materials, hotel fees, food and airfare are also financed by these funds.

This year, Anderson said NUMT was under pressure to find their funding elsewhere.

“It became a scramble to rake in all the other money,” Anderson said. “We had a couple of fundraising campaigns. I also argued in front of ASG for additional funds.”

Despite their efforts, Anderson said their budget was low, which forced them to cut spending. They cut down the number of competing teams from four to three, he said, and hotel fees were cut by staying with friends and family members during tournaments.

NUMT was able to compete in 11 invitational tournaments this season — about the same as in past years — although they chose to attend tournaments closer to Evanston and with lower registration fees, said Mock Trial president Sarah Walther. They also attended Regionals last weekend, where both A and B teams qualified for the Opening Round Championships Series Tournament. Walther said only 216 of 739 teams advanced to ORCS this year.

“It’s a really amazing feeling because only two teams from a program can qualify to ORCS,” the Medill senior said. “To know that we got both of our possible bids out was really gratifying. It was stellar to see our hard work pay off.”

Walther said ORCS, which will take place in early March, is the group’s most important tournament of the season. Their performance at this tournament will determine whether or not they will be one of 48 teams to advance to Nationals in Philadelphia, she said.

And they have high aims for the coming tournament.

“Our goal is to reclaim our undefeated title at ORCS,” Walther said. “We know it’s a huge goal because it is very difficult to do and a very subjective activity. But that is definitely our goal.”

In fact, Walther said the team practices six days a week, for two to three hours a day, in preparation for the tournament. She said the group was successful in the past because they made their arguments look “polished” and “easy.”

Walther said the team watches footage of both themselves as well as anticipated competitors. They emphasize devoting time to observing and providing feedback to other team members, she said.

Weinberg freshman and A-team member Ruby Scanlon said the team also scrimmages other local teams on the weekends.

“It is definitely a time commitment, but we all love it, and are happy to practice as much as possible, because it means we are going to do as well as possible,” Scanlon said.

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