Gov. Martin O'Malley said Tuesday that it would be "ludicrous" for Towson University to cut funding for its highly successful debate program because of overall cuts to the state university system.
Suspension of the team's season seemed a possibility after Towson trimmed its travel budget in response to several rounds of state-ordered cuts last year. But the university has since come up with $25,000 that will allow the top debate pairs to travel this spring. University officials said they hope to carve out a more permanent annual budget for the program.
O'Malley said debate should remain a priority because of its power as a recruiting tool.
"I don't think any president worth their salt would allow a debate club to become a casualty of the fiscal restraint we all have to exercise," the governor said, noting that he had not spoken to Towson President Robert L. Caret about the matter.
Christopher "Kit" Spicer, Towson's dean for fine arts and communication, reiterated Tuesday that he is working to protect the program's financial future. He said he was encouraged by the governor's remarks.
He added that after The Baltimore Sun ran an article about the debate team on Tuesday, he and coach Beth Skinner heard from several potential donors who are interested in supporting the program.
Even with the recent influx of money, members of the speech and debate team said they're worried because underclassmen have been unable to travel to the regional tournaments that will prepare them for national success.
Towson has risen to national prominence in recent years on the talents of innovative debaters from Baltimore City schools who raise frank questions about race, class and gender.
Baltimore Sun reporter Julie Bykowicz contributed to this article.