Miami University’s Mock Trial National Championship team is being displaced from its practice room in order to create additional seating for classes in the Farmer School of Business (FSB).
Miami has three mock trial teams, A, B and C, all under the same program. Historically, only the A-team has gone to nationals, but last year both the A and B teams went.
Mock Trial team members take a class for 2-hours of credit. It used to be a part of the business legal studies minor, but that minor no longer exists. Now, Mock Trial has been moved to operate under the Pre-Law Department and is no longer a part of FSB.
Practices for the Mock Trial team are held in FSB 1035. This room is large enough to accomodate the judge’s bench and attorney’s benches in order for the team to properly prepare for competitions. It also holds room for the two attorney’s benches that are necessary to simulate competitions. These items are a necessity for proper preparation for competitions, said senior A-team member Madeline Witte.
Near the beginning of the semester, FSB informed the team they will be removing the judge’s bench, witness stand and attorney's benches in order to place seven more seats in the classroom in an effort to allow for more students and increase the amount of money the school brings in.
Witte said Mock Trial students are upset about the change and don’t feel as though Miami’s team is being valued as much as Mock Trial teams at other universities, especially considering Miami is ranked as the top program in the nation.
“It is disappointing to see how other schools such as Yale and UVA [the University of Virginia] treat their top-in-the-nation mock trial programs, versus how we are being treated,” Witte said. “I struggle with them kicking the top team in the country out of that room in order to gain a couple thousand more dollars.”
The bench will remain in the room for the rest of the semester through this year’s National Championships. However, starting next semester, the team is unsure where they will end up. Because FSB intends to have the benches removed to offer more seats for classes, the College of Arts and Science is now tasked with finding the team a new home. The bench, because of its weight, cannot be easily moved. This has made the search for new placement difficult.
“I’m working with staff in other support offices to explore possible locations for the bench,” Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Science Stephen Wright said. “It’s a large item that can’t be moved easily, so its placement involves trade-offs with how the classroom is used for other courses.”
Some members of the team, though, continue to express concern about their new placement and are upset with their treatment in comparison to other teams on campus.
Executive Director of the Mock Trial program and coach, Neal Shuett was contacted but declined to make a statement. Coaches Ben Sandlin and Emily Arnzen were also contacted but did not respond.
“I don’t know another team on this campus that is number one in the nation,” Witte said. “But the football team isn’t being kicked out of their stadium.”