For the first time, Bowdoin’s Mock Trial A Team advanced past the regional tournament of the American Mock Trial Association (AMTA) national championship to earn a spot in the second round. When the team was first notified of its bid on Tuesday, however, there were questions about the team’s ability to obtain funds to travel to the competition. Since then, funds from the Student Activities Funding Committee (SAFC) will allow the group to travel to New York for the next round of competition.
At Bowdoin, Mock Trial is a chartered club and receives funding from the SAFC, a branch of Bowdoin Student Government (BSG). Unlike many groups that receive funding from the SAFC, the team competes in inter-collegiate tournaments and must pay for travel and overnight lodging. Additionally, SAFC guidelines do not allow funding for events that occur over Spring Break, when the next Mock Trial tournament is scheduled. The team had to respond to the bid within 24 hours to ensure its spot.
On Wednesday, SAFC unanimously voted, by email, to make an exception for its Spring Break policy and approved funding for Bowdoin Mock Trial, and the team will go to Central Islip, New York for the next round of competition from March 17 to 19.
Chair of SAFC and Vice President for the Treasury of BSG Irfan Alam ’18 said that the SAFC wanted to support Mock Trial’s unique opportunity to represent the College at a national level.
“I think it’s great that they’re here and that we can support them because they represent Bowdoin like any other athletic team would, and they dedicate a ton of their time doing the work that they do,” he said.
Alam, who was a member of Mock Trial during his first two years at Bowdoin, did not participate in the vote.
Both the A team and the B team attended the regional tournament in Boston last weekend. They competed against other colleges’ teams for points in a mock court case dealing with age discrimination. In each round, they were randomly assigned to act as the defense or the prosecution. The A team won five ballots and lost three, placing ninth out of 24 teams from New England-area colleges.
Jacob Russell ’17 and Allisen Haggard ’17 founded Bowdoin’s Mock Trial Club as first years and were excited to see the team’s progress over the past four years. When they started the group, their goal was to advance past regionals by their senior year—an objective they have now achieved.
“We just wanted to make sure [the program] continued for four years and we could leave a team that we felt comfortable with,” Russell said.
As one of only a few competitive academic teams chartered by the College, members said the team struggles to find its place on campus.
“The most frustrating part … is that it can be really hard to coordinate because there isn’t really a place for a competitive academic teams to go at Bowdoin, because there [are] varsity sports and then there [are] clubs,” said Emilie Montgomery ’18, president of the Mock Trial club.
By competing in the next round, Bowdoin’s Mock Trial team could become nationally ranked by AMTA. Haggard thinks that the team’s advance “could only be advantageous” for the College.
“I think we are an academic team on campus that has the potential to really gain some momentum,” she said. “We’re hoping the school will support us in getting there.”
Russell emphasized that, like athletic teams, programs like Mock Trial allow colleges to compete and gain recognition.
“I think there’s something meaningful about competing against other educational organizations in an academic competition,” he said.
Grace Cawdrey ’20, a member of the B Team is new to Mock Trial this year. She values the skills she has learned from competition, such as public speaking and improvisation.
“Whether or not one pursues a degree in law, it is so important to be able to present, to marshal evidence in support of your argument and to do so in a way that is confident and easily digestible to those who are listening,” said Cawdrey. “I mean, I can’t think of a profession wherein that would be irrelevant.”