wiley college debaters and actor nate parker (center)

‘The Great Debaters’ actor Nate Parker congratulated Wiley College debate team’s Lyle Kleinman and Nathan Leal for their win against USC

*Seventy-eight years ago,  Wiley College and the University of Southern California squared off  at  USC’s Bovard Hall in Los Angeles, California, for an exhibition debate.

Wiley College, one of the oldest historically black colleges west of the Mississippi River, defeated USC, and the small school’s victory served as a profound example that skin color is not a determinant of intelligence or abilities.

In 2012, the teams met for a second time on Wiley’s campus in Texas, which resulted in both teams as victors.

In the third rematch, held in a capacity-filled auditorium at USC on Friday, October, 25, 2013, the 78-year-old history was repeated when Wiley emerged as the victors. “We are elated about our win, but similarly to our views regarding the 2012 Wiley college and USC contest, we all know that anytime we can come together to celebrate our differences and be tolerant of opposing views, we all win,” said Dr. Haywood L. Strickland, Wiley College President and CEO.

The Debaters: Nathan Leal and Lyle Kleinman for Wiley and Christian Patterson and Clara Purk for USC debated on the topic, “The role of race should be expanded in university admissions.”  Wiley argued the negative and USC argued the positive.

wiley college debaters and wiley college president and CEO Dr. Haywood L. Strickland (center)

Wiley College President and CEO Dr. Haywood L. Strickland praises the Wiley College Debate Team members Lyle Klienman and Nathan Leal  for their triumph over USC Debate Squad

USC Debater Christian Patterson stated he was the only black in one of his classes at USC and that without his presence; non-black students could express opinions on minorities based on stereotypes. He held that having diverse classrooms plays a role in dispelling stereotypes. USC debaters further argued that universities need race-conscious admissions for diversity and that diverse classrooms enhance students’ learning experiences.

Wiley’s Debaters Leal and Kleinman stated they, too, believe in having diversity on campus, but they said they oppose the policies applied to achieve it.  They argued that race-conscious admissions treat the symptom, a lack of diversity, but fail to address the problem. Schools, they said, must do a better job of preparing all students for admission to elite colleges.

“After nearly 80 years, Wiley College has revived its forensics program and has come back with a passion to excel in all that they do as a team,” said Executive Vice President and provost of Wiley College Dr. Glenda F. Carter.  “The team has reclaimed its prominent status in the national debate arena.”

Now ranked fourth in the nation, Wiley’s debate team completed its 2012-2013 season of competition having amassed 82 national awards, 368 season-long awards, and 16 championship trophies, and the first team title by a historically black college.   The debate team is affiliated with Pi Kappa Delta, the National Forensics Association, and the American Forensics Association.

The Wiley Team is led by Director of Forensics Christopher Medina, a native of Los Angeles, who came to Wiley with nearly 25 years of forensics experience. During his former position as the Director of Forensics at the University of La Verne in California, ULV produced its first world debate finalists and its first world championship in supplementary events.

Wiley’s L.A. debate team members:

Returning Competitors

• Austin Ashford – Hometown: Union Springs, California.
• Drake Pough – Hometown: Union Springs, California.
• Dominick Taylor – Hometown: St. Louis, Missouri.

First-Year Competitors

• Robert Hollar – Hometown: Los Angeles, California.
• Nathan Leal – Hometown: Union Springs, California.
• Lyle Kleinman – Hometown: Bakersfield, California • Rachel Garnett – Hometown: Orange County, California.
• Cameron Smith – Hometown: St. Louis, Missouri.

Ms. Xernona Clayton, founder of the The Trumpet Awards, introduced the debate exhibition judges: District 9 City Councilman Curren D. Price, Wilmer A. Pinder, Esq.(ret.), Actor Nate Parker (The Great Debaters, Red Tails), and Mr. Wren P. Brown, founder of Ebony Repertory Theatre.

As a point of reference, the 2007 award-winning movie, “The Great Debaters,” told the story of Wiley’s defeat of USC, the then reigning national forensics champion, under the direction of Professor Melvin B.Tolson.  In the movie, however, the Wiley team defeats Harvard University. Denzel Washington, who played Tolson and also directed the movie, donated $1 million to Wiley to revive the debate team.

For more information about the Wiley Team, please contact Ms. Tammy Taylor, Director of Public Relations at Wiley College at (469) 826-2383.

About Wiley College
Founded in 1873, Wiley College is a four-year privately-supported, historically black college affiliated with The United Methodist Church and the United Negro College Fund.  The campus is located at 711 Wiley Avenue in Marshall, Texas 75670. (903) 927-3300.


Marie Y. Lemelle, MBA
Publicist, Producer, Manager
*Platinum Star Public Relations and Management
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