UW Debate Union Competition Team

The Debate Union competes in NDT-CEDA two-person team policy debate. In this format of debate, two-person teams compete in debates against teams from around the region and nation. NDT-CEDA debate is widely recognized as the most rigorous and academically challenging format of debate in the world.

FAQs page

Q. What is the format of debate?

A. The UW Debate Union competes in NDT-CEDA two-person policy debate. Each person the team delivers two speeches in the debate. Our format is team-oriented and research-oriented. In competition, you will have a teammate that will help you in the debate. Your team will take both sides of the topic, affirmative and negative. We use research to support our arguments in debate and we work as an entire squad to build resources. Our resources are pooled in an online database of information.

Q. What do you debate about?

A. The topic of debate for 2014-2015 addresses the legalization of prostitution, online gambling, marijuana, physician-assisted suicide and human organ sales. It reads: Resolved: The United States should legalize all or nearly all of one or more of the following in the United States: marijuana, online gambling, physician-assisted suicide, prostitution, the sale of human organs. In competition, affirmative teams (the side supporting the resolution) will pick one of the areas to debate.

In practice, debates will cover a wide-range of social and political issues, far beyond the specific topic of the resolution.

Q. I’ve never done debate before. Can I join?

A. Yes! Our program is open to beginners who have never competed. We strongly encourage students who have never competed to join our program.

Q. I’ve never been in debate before. Do I compete against experts?

A. No. In college policy debate, competitors who did not compete in high school debate compete in the Novice Division against other competitors in their first year of competition. To compete in novice with the UW Debate Union, you’ll need to attend our novice sessions and prepare for debate competition–a workload of 5-6 hours per week (outside of meetings) plus attending competitions. If you did compete in high school debate but believe you still qualify for novice debate, we can petition for novice eligibility.

Q. How much work is debate competition?

A. Debate competition is a rigorous activity that requires preparation and practice. People engaging in debate competition are expected to attend approximately 2 hours of meetings per week. In addition to meetings competitors are expected to do practice speeches and debates as well as research and prepare arguments. While some weeks require more work and others require less work, the general guidelines are:

Novices: 5-6 hours per week.

Junior Varsity: 8-10 hours per week.

Varsity: 10-15 hours per week.

Q.Is there a class where I can learn debate skills?

A. Yes! If you want to get involved in debate you can enroll this quarter in my COM 334: Essentials of Argument course. The advantage of enrolling is that you can get 5 credits doing work that is directly applicable in debate competition.

We are also working to develop a practicum course specifically for competitive debate.

Q.If I can’t take the course, do you teach us debate skills?

A. Yes! Each meeting is oriented toward developing debates skills that prepare you for competition.

Q.How does travelling for debate competition work?

A. If you choose to compete in debate, your travel and expenses are paid for by the University of Washington. Most trips last four to five days, leaving on either Thursday or Friday and return either Monday or Tuesday. Competition team members should expect to travel at least two-to-three times during the fall and winter quarters and may travel to up to ten tournaments.

Q.How can I balance debate travel and my courses?

A. Debate is a recognized university-related activity in the University Code and your absences are officially excused by the university. Faculty are requested to work to accommodate your absence and may not penalize you for your involvement in debate. The Director of the Debate Union provides students with a letter for faculty explaining their participation and closely monitors student academic performance. In reality, most faculty are pleased that their students are involved in debate. Students who involved in debate tend to be active class participants and have advanced grasp on course material.

Q.English isn’t my first language. Can I compete?

A. Yes! Debating is an excellent way to build language skills. In actual competition, other competitors will work to accommodate your participation in a debate. Of course, your want to win but the judges and the other team will generally understand that debating in a second (or third or fourth) language is a unique challenge.

Q.I competed in forensics in high school/college. Would I be a “novice.”?

A. It depends. If you competed in individual speech events, Congressional debate, Public Forum, or Mock Trial, you likely qualify to compete in novice. If you competed in a year or more of Cross-Examination or Lincoln-Douglas debate, you probably do not qualify for novice level debate. You may start at the Junior Varsity level of competition.

Q.Do you do individual events?

A. No. The Debate Union only competes in team policy debate and special public debate tournaments.

Q.If policy debate is for two-person teams, do only two people get to compete?

A. No. A single debate team has two-persons. But the school can have an unlimited number of teams. Teams from the same school do not debate each other in competition.

Q.Can debate help me with my career?

A. Yes! The American Bar Association recommends debate competition as an excellent form of preparation for law school and legal practice and many successful business people, leading scholars, and leaders are former debate competitors. Debate competitors are far more likely to gain an advanced degree than the general population of undergraduates. The skills that debate provides to students helps students be effective in whatever career they choose.

Q.What if I want to be involved but don’t want to compete?

A. Non-competitive members are an essential part of our team. If want to be involved but do not wish to compete, you can help facilitate our many programs, participate in campus debates, and help us make connections around the campus.