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Debate FAQs

In what type of debate does Vanderbilt participate?

Vanderbilt competes in British Parliamentary debate tournaments around the country and the world, including the United States Universities Debating Championship and the World Universities Debating Championship. These are two of the largest debate competitions in the world with over 200 teams participating. Vanderbilt Debate is a member of the United States Universities Debate Association.

We emphasize research, argumentation and delivery skills. For more information on CEDA, visit their website.


Two-time American Debate Association (ADA) Champions Cameron Norris (left) and Nick Brown. Vanderbilt won ADA National titles in both 2010 and 2011.

 

Who funds and directs the Vanderbilt Debate Team?

The Vanderbilt Debate Team is a fully funded activity of the College of Arts & Science and is open to all undergraduates in good academic standing.

The coaching staff consists of M. L. Sandoz (Director of Forensics), John Koch (Director of Debate), Neil Butt (On-Campus Debate Initiatives), and four volunteer coaches.

More information can be found on the Coaching Staff page.

sandoz-chancellors-cup-fi-2M.L. Sandoz (center) being presented with the Chancellor’s Cup by Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos (right)

 

What if I am interested in joining the Vanderbilt Debate Squad?

To join the squad, complete the Prospective Debaters Form.

 

What if I have no debate experience?

Vanderbilt trains new debaters. Vanderbilt often has one of the largest squads in the nation. Typically, more than 30 Vanderbilt students participate each year. Unlike many schools, we allow students with no prior debate experience to join the squad. This allows a larger number of students to experience competitive debate.

Even if you have never heard a debate round before, we would like to teach you how to debate. We have an extensive training program which consistently produces nationally recognized debaters. Novice British Parliamentary debaters in 2019 won the Regis University tournament and Novice Western Regionals.

 

What can I expect from the Vanderbilt Debate experience?

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.

 

How much travel is involved with debate?

Vanderbilt travels extensively to both national and international tournaments. Individual debaters average 3-5 tournaments a semester.

Vanderbilt pays for all entry fees, travel expenses, and housing during tournaments, and covers most, if not all, meals as well. We travel to exciting places all over the country from Washington, D. C. to Los Angeles, California. We are also expanding our international travel and expect to compete in Canada, England, Ireland, South Korea, and Thailand in the coming years.

 

When and where does the squad meet?

We have squad meetings each Wednesday night at 6:30pm in 1801 Edgehill, room 225F.

Individual debaters also schedule practice rounds, drill sessions, and research meetings with coaches prior to competing in tournaments. Also, there are informal get-togethers, parties, and other programs.

 

How much work/time does debate require?

This is always a difficult question to answer because some people work faster than others and some people have more challenging debate goals than others.

The minimum commitment would be about 3 hours per week. Competitive varsity debaters spend far more time in preparation each week. Weeks just before you compete in a tournament generally require more time.

 

How committed do you have to be to be a part of the squad?

The Vanderbilt Debate Squad is open to everyone who wants to learn through debate. Some members want just a semester of experience at the regional level and others want to strive for national and international championships. Of course, the greater the goal, the greater the work load you carry.

 

I have debated in High School, is there a place for me on the squad?

Yes, our varsity teams are competitive and always looking for new people to share in the success.

The squad consists of a number of students who debated in high school.  People who have participated in LD, parli, IEs, Moot Court, Model UN, public forum, policy, and Youth Congress have successfully made the transition to British Parliamentary debate.

 

Will Debate help me get into Law School?

Yes it will! Former Vandy debaters have been accepted to law schools at Harvard, NYU, Columbia, Notre Dame, Georgetown, Miami, Vanderbilt, American, George Washington, Florida, and many more. Many of our students have been recognized with large scholarships.

 

Will Debate help me get into graduate and/or professional programs?

Yes. The critical thinking and communication skills one learns through debate are not only good for law school. Some former debaters have been admitted to Ph.D. programs in areas such as Neuroscience, Geology, Business, and Communication. Several debaters have completed medical school as well.

 

Are there any other resources I can use to learn about debate?

Yes, contact one of our coaches for additional links and information.