Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
There’s talk of “mock trial revival” every few years at this institution, but four of this year’s freshmen–Candice Nguyen, Jon Schafer, Cecilia Marquez and Asher Sered–have created a team this year, forming a energetic core that they expect to carry the team forward for some years to come.
Nguyen was very involved in Mock Trial in high school, and knew that Swarthmore had been very successful in the past, with top-ranking teams in 2001. Therefore, she was “surprised” to find that there was no longer a team at Swarthmore.
She recalled that at Ride the Tide, “I thought Peaslee was great, and I was pretty sure I was just going to join them by default… but the more I thought about it, Mock Trial is very special in that it really is a performance with a lot of content in terms of understanding legal terms and in preparing for an improptu thing as well.”
Over the summer, Nguyen e-mailed faculty and the Pre-Law advisor Gigi Simone, she said that “people were very supportive,” but she found the most help from Alumni Relations, specifically Geoff Semenuk, who “offered moral support… insight about who to go to, and contacts with alumni.”
Nguyen met the other three at an interest meeting for pre-law students, including Asher Sered, who said, “I think if I had been on my own it probably wouldn’t have worked, but the fact that there were four of us really gave us an impetus.”
Sered continued, “I think Mock Trial is good for Swarthmore in the sense that it combines a lot of different aspects of what a Swat education tries to achieve… there’s the debate component, the teamwork component, it incorporates acting and general legal thought.”
The group held an interest meeting in early October, and now has a team of nine students–the four freshmen, three sophomores, and a senior and a junior. Since competitive teams have to consist of six to ten students (some schools field multiple teams, such as Penn), this was a good number.
Although most of the team members did mock trial in high school, college is a step up in difficulty. In high school, said Nguyen, “things are much more spelled out… you can always expect certain witnesses, but in college you don’t know which ones will compete until 25 minutes in advance, so you might have to change your entire case.”
The group is still in the chartering process, but expects to be able to receive funding soon and thus be able to complete their registration with the American Mock Trial Association. (One of the obstacles? A Swarthmore team registered in 2004 but then failed to show up at the tournament, incurring a $500 fine which the new team had to pay off.) Once that happens, the team will receive the case for this year’s competition.
Nguyen explained that “Mock Trial is generally very conventional in terms of preparation… there’s a lot of memorization, and we won’t have that time, so we’re exploring different ways of preparation.” Right now, the group has plans to go to an invitational tournment at Cornell in January, but has not yet been assigned their regional tournament for the official competition in February.