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About Debate

Vanderbilt Debate ranks as one of the premier programs in the country. The team consists of three components: competitive teams, public events, and on-campus policy debates. Learn more about debate participation and its benefits below.

If you’d like to support Vanderbilt Debate, make a donation or contact a member of our coaching staff.


Students benefit tremendously from debate. The debate experience helps one to develop and improve communication and critical thinking skills. As a member of the squad, students gain a better understanding of general theories and principles of argumentation and a better understanding of current world issues. Students also develop better research, critical thinking, and communication skills.

Because debate is essential to our society’s democratic process and important in successful decision-making, the debate experience empowers students to participate more productively in shaping their own personal worlds and society as a whole.

Interested in learning more? Contact us or by emailing a member of the coaching staff.

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Competitive Teams

Photos of an exhibition debate between the top college debaters in Ireland and the Vandy Debaters in the First Amendment Center auditorium.

Competitive teams travel to national and international tournaments and debate against other schools from around the world. Currently, Vanderbilt competes in British Parliamentary Debate and the Civic Debate Conference.

Members of the competitive team are chosen to travel to tournaments through auditions, past results, seniority, and squad contributions. While many tournaments require a selection process, there are opportunities throughout the year for all those who are interested in competition to travel with the team or compete online.


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Public Events

Vanderbilt participates in several public debate events throughout the year, such as hosting international teams, public debates, and presidential debate watch parties. The team also works with partners in the community, such as local elementary and high schools, to coach students, judge debates, and organize tournaments.

Participation in our public programs is open to everyone. Those involved in our public programs are expected to maintain regular contact with the coaches, attend meetings regularly, plan events, and participate in them. Our public debate program allows students to participate on the team without leaving campus and provides a path for those interested in competitive debate to gain the experience and skills necessary to join the traveling team.


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On-Campus Policy Debates

The Vanderbilt Policy Debate Program is an on-campus program designed to give students experience addressing specific policy questions in depth. Participants work with a partner to put together affirmative and negative arguments on a topic and cooperate with other teams to create a pool of research.

Using this research, teams compete against each other in a series of on-campus debate tournaments. Each debate features one affirmative team and one negative team, and each team is prepared to debate both sides of the topic during the tournament.

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While Vanderbilt offers three distinct debate tracks, students may be involved in more than one track. For instance, students selected for the competitive team may also help plan public debates.

In addition, any of these tracks may potentially help students fulfill their Immersion requirements.

The goal of the team is to assist all interested Vanderbilt students in improving their debate and public speaking skills. We look forward to you being a member of the Vanderbilt Debate Team.

Please fill out the prospective debaters form if interested in joining us!

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