Delta Sigma Rho–tau Kappa Alpha
Delta Sigma Rho–Tau Kappa Alpha is a collegiate honor society devoted to the promotion of public speaking (forensics). It is a member of the Association of College Honor Societies (ACHS), and it seeks to reward excellence and to foster respect for freedom of speech.
The society maintains high standards for membership and for the establishment and conduct of its campus chapters. Faculty affiliated with the society are expected to supervise extracurricular debates and other public speaking activities in addition to teaching speech-related courses. In addition the society sponsors a variety of regional and national competitions in debate, prepared speech, and extemporaneous speech, and student members are expected to participate. The society publishes a journal, Speaker and Gavel, and has produced a textbook for use in public speaking courses: Argumentation and Debate: Principles and Practices. Written by David Potter under the auspices of Tau Kappa Alpha in 1954, it was revised and reissued in 1963.
The society seeks to attract promising candidates for membership well before they enter college. To this end the society provides a trophy to the winner of the annual National Forensics League tournament for high-school public speakers. It also awards a Student Speaker of the Year trophy to a college chapter member who is chosen for the honor by the vote of the entire national membership. Another Speaker of the Year trophy is awarded to a nonmember who, in the view of the society, epitomizes effective, intelligent, and responsible public speaking. Past honorees include Le Roy Collins, Reverend Billy Graham, J. William Fulbright, and Edward W. Brooks.
Organization and Funding
In 2002 the society had 195 active chapters serving 58,150 members. Campus chapters are organized into ten regions. Each region is administered by a governor chosen by active members of the regional chapters. A national council sets overall society policy, but local chapters enjoy a degree of autonomy in planning activities. The council officers are recruited from active or retired college speech faculty members. Society expenses are offset by an initiation fee charged to each new member and by subscriptions to the society journal. In addition fund-raising activities are held by campus chapters.
Eligibility for membership is based on active participation in college-level forensics or original speaking. A prospective member must demonstrate skill in these areas but must also show that he or she has the capability of achieving general academic excellence. Thus the student must have completed three semesters or five quarter terms of college-level study and must have attained a high level of scholastic achievement, demonstrated by a combination of high grade point average and class rank. Membership is for life, contingent on payment of annual dues. New members must pay an initiation fee, which entitles them to a two-year subscription to Speaker and Gavel along with the insignia of the society.
Delta Sigma Rho was founded in Chicago, Illinois, on April 13, 1906, by speech faculty from eight Midwestern colleges. Two years later, on May 13, 1908, Tau Kappa Alpha was founded by a similarly interested faculty at Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana. Tau Kappa Alpha became a recognized member of the ACHS in 1937, and steadily gained chapters over the next two decades, achieving a total of ninety chapters by the fiftieth anniversary of its founding. Delta Sigma Rho, which had extremely rigid standards for prospective chapters, grew less quickly and was admitted to the ACHS in 1955. A year later it had eighty active campus chapters.
The two separate societies merged in Denver, Colorado, in 1963. The archives of both are maintained at Butler University, along with a research library for the use of scholars of American forensics. The society's official contact is through the Communications Department of the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa.
HEROLD T. ROSS
NANCY E. GRATTON
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