Skip to main content

Debate FAQs

In what type of debate does Vanderbilt participate?

Vanderbilt competes in ADA (American Debate Association), CEDA (Cross Examination Debate Association) and NDT (National Debate Tournament). These are the largest intercollegiate policy debate associations in the country with approximately 200 colleges and universities participating.

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), Neil Butt (Director of Debate), John Koch (Associate Director of Debate), 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, contact the Director of Forensics, M. L. Sandoz. You can also 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. In 2006, Vanderbilt debaters won the National Novice Championship, and in 2011 Vanderbilt won the Novice division of the ADA.


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 district and national tournaments. Individual debaters average 3-5 tournaments a semester.

Vanderbilt pays for all entry fees, travel expenses, and housing during tournaments, and covers most meals as well. We travel to exciting places all over the country from Washington, D. C. to Los Angeles, California.


When and where does the squad meet?

We have squad meetings each Wednesday night at 7:00pm 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 Novice-level commitment would be 3-5 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 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 and JV teams are competitive and always looking for new people to share in the success.

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


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.